Director: Joel Scott
Reviewer: Sophie Huggins
Drifting in the darkness, somewhere between fringe theatre and a cinematic experience, floats this sensory stunner, The Devil Speaks True. Interweaving Shakespeare’s famous tale of Macbeth with modern verbatim recordings, Goat and Monkey use wireless headphones, binaural sound design and video projections to immerse its audience in a world of conflict and its often dark psychological impacts.
Immediately, the audience is plunged into darkness upon using the headphones and transported to a world of guns, uniform and fear. Three recurring verbatim voices are heard, James Griffin, Peter Moore and Tom Stimpson, each with their own experience of a war zone and their journey to getting home, often involving the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. With video projections and one performer physicalising their words, the piece becomes a collage of modern conflict, with one common thread running throughout – Macbeth and in particular, Banquo. To mirror Banquo’s return from war and the tragic end to his life with the real words from military veterans is a clever concept that makes Shakespeare relevant to a modern society; something that always holds importance. Although, at times, the old and the new don’t always knit seamlessly together. This is perhaps because there is no distinct, conventional narrative nor a singular protagonist. However, this is an appropriate choice made by the company in the context of this production.
To effectively aid the audience in following the different stories, the sound is the principal narrator. The intricacies and level of detail heard in the headphones (credit to sound designer Dominic Kennedy) cleverly echo the fractured state of mind that can grip those facing a life of normality after being at war. Every sensory element is a new surprise, from strange smells to seats shaking. It is emotionally consuming, not only to be placed in that state of vulnerability but to experience it too.
The sole performer, Ripp Greatbatch, has a weight and a presence to him. His movements not only correspond to the projections but elevate them too, notably devised by choreographer Neill Callaghan. Greatbatch has an admirable physical energy and his timings with the sounds are well rehearsed and consequently faultless.
Despite only having one visible performer, it is clear from the extensive programme that many people have been involved and added their own unique skill to this production. From the intimate lighting by Leo Woolcock and Johanne Jensen to the entirely believable and professional video projections by Alex Vipond, this production is an exhibition of technical craft. Director Joel Scott clearly has an ear for all traits by taking on a directing challenge such as this as there are many elements to juggle and it is handled effortlessly.
The show’s style and choice of medium are unusual and innovative and even perhaps a glimpse into the future of theatre-making. As an exploration of sensitive issues, such as PTSD and the all too relevant themes of conflict and war, it holds much resonance today. With one recording in the performance stating “we must talk about it” and, using a classic tale for familiarity, this is something the production certainly achieves.
Reviewed on 27th April 2017 | Image: Leo Woolcock