Sunday, October 29, 2023



Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell. 

Directed by Dr. Cate Clelland. Free Rain Theatre. ACT HUB Spinifex Street Kingston 2604. October 25 – November 4 2023Bookings:ACTHUB.COM.AU

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Jess Waterhouse, Robbie Haltiner, Arran McKenna and Steph Roberts

Andrew Bovell's  Speaking in Tongues

Two couples salsa sensually to the haunting sound of Windmills of Your Mind. Leon (Arran McKenna) and Jane (Jess Waterhouse) have come to a seedy hotel room after meeting in a bar. Pete (Robbie Haltiner) and Sonja (Steph Roberts) have also come to a seedy hotel room after meeting in a bar. The couples share the setting for their illicit affair. 

Arran McKenna as Leo. Steph Roberts as Sonja

And so begins Andrew Bovell’s intriguing play about infidelity, guilt and mystery. Director Cate Clelland has staged a beautifully intricate pattern of unfolding relationships and complex personalities in Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues. In the opening scene overlapping and interspersed dialogue exposes the insecurities and fears of the cheating couples in a never ending ever spinning vortex of guilt and desire. Simple blocks are moved by the actors between scenes to create a new setting as Dusty Springfield’s alluring rendition of Windmills of your Mind heightens the suspense. Bovell is the masterful playwright exciting the curiosity and creating coincidence and confrontation as deception is unravelled and the fault-lines of marriage are painfully revealed in this brilliantly written psychological and sexual thriller.

Bovell keeps his audience on the edge of their seats, not in terror but in fascination with the lives of ordinary people caught in a whirlpool of their own folly or fears and tilting at windmills that spin their lives out of control. In the first act we observe the frailty of human nature and personal responsibility. In the second act we witness the catastrophic consequence of private imaginings and assumption. Clelland directs with purposeful clarity as revelations unfold and connections become clear and astounding.


Arran McKenna as Leo, Jess Waterhouse as Jane

Steph Roberts as Sonja, Robbie Haltiner as Neil

She is abetted in this production’s outstanding success by the first class performances of her cast. Aaron McKenna as the unfaithful detective, Leon, also doubles as the murder suspect Nick. Robbie Haltiner gives a thoroughly convincing performance as the cheating married man and Neil, the tormented husband of the alleged victim, Valerie. There is powerful emotional truth in the performances of all four actors. Jess Waterhouse’s insecure Jane, caught in the web of her own desire and Steph Roberts as Leon’s wife Sonja, emerge as victims, trapped in a web of longing and guilt. Waterhouse also plays Valerie, a clinical psychotherapist besieged by her own paranoia and the windmills of her mind. Roberts doubles as her client Sarah, plagued by her fears and impulse to escape reality. These are four actors who embrace Bovell’s real and insightful text with a searing truthfulness that results in performances that are totally gripping, thoroughly truthful and unforgettable.

ACT HUB has once again shown itself to be the hub of outstanding theatre in the ACT. Free Rain Theatre and Cate Clelland’s production of Andrew Bovell’s ingenious play about human nature, its complexities and its frailties is must see theatre, performed by four brilliant exponents of the actor’s craft. Sadly, the season is much too short, so don’t miss out. Book your tickets now!

Photos by Janelle McMenamin