REVIEW: Tongue Tied
Tongue Tied (Kings Cross Theatre – Directed by Sarah Hadley)
Reviewed by Jemma Ryan
Content warning: sexual assault
How far would you go in the pursuit of justice?
This is just one of a series of questions posed in Clare Hennessy’s Tongue Tied, a timely yet confronting exploration of feminism, ethics, politics and the perils that arise when the lines between personal and professional worlds blur. In the small, confined setting of the Kings Cross Theatre, audiences were forced to bear witness to issues that society often turns a blind eye to. Tongue Tied reminded audiences that theatre is no longer a mere form of escapism, it holds up a mirror to real life.
Mia (played by Eloise Snape) is a journalist for the fictional ‘Status Quo’ magazine that, unlike its name, is determined to seek the truth, no matter how long it takes or how difficult to swallow such truths may be. The play chronicles Mia as she investigates a sexual assault scandal within a juice company. Mia, expecting to come face-to-face with the alleged perpetrator, Johnno, is thrown off-guard when she instead faces Parker from PR who is constantly “PR-tending everything is fine”. Played by Kieran Clancy-Lowe, Parker’s glibness was comical. Not because it was over-exaggerated or satirised but because it was so painstakingly accurate.
Authentic, quick, witty and thought-provoking, the strength of Tongue Tied truly lay in its dialogue. Exchanges between Mia and Parker reflected how contentious issues are approached in a ‘politically correct’ world. Audiences laughed, cringed and groaned as we watched Parker walk on eggshells, hyper-aware that his every word could be used against him, Johnno, or his company.
So, what happens when Parker disobeys the “bro code” and, instead of his stock-standard 'no comment' response, utters three words that send shockwaves through the audience?
I believe her.
Kings Cross Theatre was transformed into a microcosm of the wider corporate world, with subtle yet ambient keyboard background music creating atmosphere and tension. Tongue Tied had a limited set of a conference room table, a projector and four chairs on which the actors sat when they were not in the scene. The use of a projector was an interesting creative choice, reminiscent of Kip Williams’ characteristic use of digital screens in theatre. In the case of Tongue Tied, the use of a projector, coupled with a constant stream of 21st century references, spoke to our modern, media-saturated world. The play’s black and white colour palette directly contrasted the far from black-and-white issue they were portraying; full of grey area, nuance and moral dilemmas.
The play’s traverse seating arrangement meant audiences were seated on either side of the action, allowing us to see each other. This reminded audiences of the power of independent theatre, cultivating a unique, intimate atmosphere that was sorely missed after COVID devastated Australia’s arts industry. Theatre allows for moments that at-home entertainment simply cannot. The intimacy of the theatre allowed for actor-audience connections, and made for some of the most entertaining moments of the show, such as when Parker called ‘Hey Siri, call Johnno’, and an audience member’s phone responded ‘I don’t see a Johnno’. The beauty of theatre sometimes lies in its unpredictability.
When asked in an interview to cite her sources of inspiration for the characters and the play as a whole, playwright Clare Hennesey expressed how, ‘unfortunately’, there is so much real-world inspiration to draw upon, reflecting the enduring nature of the play’s core themes of misogyny, harassment and the media. Hennessy has proven herself to be a daring playwright; a trailblazer much like the play’s protagonist, through her determination to illuminate harsh truths, and refusal to have her tongue tied.
Tongue Tied is playing at KXT until the 26th of November.
Images by Clare Hawley