Apocalyptic plots and stories of hubristic doom feel as close to reality as ever in these troubling times. Yet, like any disaster movie worth its salt or well crafted piece of speculative science fiction, there is something unnervingly comforting and compelling about these narratives. Perhaps it’s the feeling of superiority about not being in quite so dire a situation, or the sense that eventually our heroes will pull through against all odds – it’s difficult to pin point what exactly it is about these ill-fated tales that draws us in, but like a moth to the flame, we are entranced.
It was this feeling of entrancement that best describes my reaction to Bath Spa Production and the Wardrobe Ensemble’s new devised piece, Mother Tongue. A modern re-imagining of the Tower of Babel story, Mother Tongue examines the double edged sword of human nature – our desire for advancement at the cost of social altruism, our need to communicate at the cost of misinterpreting cultural nuance, our need to discover and expand at the cost of indigenous destruction – through a distinctly sci-fi lens. Through use of distinctively choreographed movement, choral speech and brilliantly crafted moments of near naturalistic dialogue, Mother Tongue paints a rich tapestry of humanity’s faults and strengths, overseen by the unnerving hive mind of a mysterious pantheon of six unspecified deities.
This is a brilliantly accomplished piece of devised theatre that brings an age old story to a very immediate near reality. At times, Mother Tongue feels like a theatrical extension of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror before swooping more into the unnerving realm of Darren Aronofsky’s cinematic biblical allegories. It is a piece of theatre that leaves one questioning and disturbed in equal measure, but most of all, it’s a production that leaves you with a sense of wonder at the fluid and metamorphic nature of theatre as an art form; there truly is no other kind of creative expression quite like theatre.
Review by Alexandra Ricou