Reviews of ‘Speaking In Tongues’

23 October 2023

How much suspicion can a relationship take? News and reviews of Free Rain’s production of the play ‘Speaking In Tongues’ by Andrew Bovell.

The play ‘Speaking In Tongues’ by Andrew Bovell opened at ACT Hub in the Causeway Hall in Kingston on Thursday 25 October 2023 and ran til 4 November 2023. We have collated the reviews below, and a quote or two.


Each of the four actors delivered accomplished, engaging performances… Bovell has the two sets of partners speaking the same lines together and simultaneously, but with each of the actors re-acting differently to what it being said. It’s a fascinating ploy, and watching the skill with which actors exploit the possibilities offered by the script to bring unique individual nuance and responses to the lines, both with words and body language, is a mesmerising and enthralling experience, particularly in the intimacy of the ACT Hub.

As these strands are explored it says much for the skill of the actors, and the clarity of Clelland’s direction, that there is no confusion in following the threads… this is an excellent production of an important play which will fascinate anyone interested in aspects of the human condition. Try not to miss it.

Director Cate Clelland has staged a beautifully intricate pattern of unfolding relationships and complex personalities in Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues. …Clelland directs with purposeful clarity as revelations unfold and connections become clear and astounding. She is abetted in this production’s outstanding success by the first class performances of her cast.There is powerful emotional truth in the performances of all four actors.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!

Director Cate Clelland has obtained impressive, in-depth performances from her highly capable cast. Every moment rings true in this very entertaining and ingenious play.

The four actors playing nine characters artfully bring these people to life. Steph Roberts, Arran McKenna, Jess Waterhouse and Robbie Haltiner all give extraordinarily real performances. Their vocal delivery and the non-verbal aspects of their characters have been carefully thought out.

Engrossing and powerful character portrayals.

A condensed and complicated web of interaction with enough emotional drama and psychological motivation to keep you thinking, this troupe of actors led by director Cate Clelland were more than capable of delivering on the task of communicating it. … Their deep, emotionally real performances made sure the complicated narrative was delivered in such a way that losing attention was virtually impossible.

The play is a challenging work for actors – a piece for a quartet with an opening twenty minutes consisting largely of overlapping dialogue where two characters are saying exactly the same phrase at the same time, followed by extensive scenes of duologues and interweaving monologues. There’s a challenge in the opening twenty minutes to keep the dialogue synchronous yet create individual characters, and then in the later scenes to maintain a connection even when you’re the silent one on stage. All four cast members pass this test with aplomb and stop the show from feeling like just a technical exercise, into something vibrant and emotionally true.

Cate Clelland’s production is simple … but relishes in the intimacy and direct connection between actor and audience that this allows.

This is a powerful, compelling jigsaw puzzle of a play, where in this production the pieces are painted boldly and strongly enough to pull them together with ease. It’s gripping, funny, truthful and painful, and altogether powerful, pure theatre. 


Clelland, one of Canberra’s most seasoned directors, is staging the play for Free Rain Theatre and has been busy finding the heart and humanity in what is essentially a piece about relationships. As well, Bovell’s play poses moral and philosophical questions that would have challenged the mind of St Paul, such as whether, if you intend to cheat, is that the same as actually doing it? “Because of this complexity, the whole thing has been very collaborative,” she says.

The play, she explains, is really a series of themes and variations, perhaps like a fugue in music. In the end, she says, ‘Speaking in Tongues’ is about love and loss, with parallels all over the place and a mystery at the centre.

Director, Cate Clelland said, “It’s a puzzle. The viewer is expected to put the pieces of the narrative together but, it’s not a rectangular puzzle that fits neatly together and in place… Even the title is not explained, leaving the audience to ponder possible meanings.

Actor Steph Roberts said, “All of the behaviours and characters have rippling consequences they can’t necessarily predict at the time… the play was a challenge for the cast, with everyone playing at least two characters (differentiated through costume as well as performance) and, working with Clelland, figuring out the storylines and connections among the characters and the meanings behind the words.”