CUPPERS: Mountain Language (Wadham)

Wed 9th – Sat 12th November 2011


Claire Cocks

at 10:05 on 10th Nov 2011



Tapping into something darkly primitive, Wadham’s cast of seven created an effective and powerfully haunting Cuppers performance this year in their adaptation of Harold Pinter’s one-act play ‘Mountain Language’, first published in 1988. The play explores what it means when we find ourselves being forbidden from using our own language, when the uttering of simple words of kindness to an imprisoned husband such as ‘I’ve brought you some bread’ are outlawed.

Being a play of few words, meant the focus was on the way in which non-verbal action was executed, shown by Wadham’s strong cast to be more powerful than words could ever be.

Max McGenity’s performance as the Prisoner was nothing short of outstanding, with a full knowledge of how facial expressions, tone of voice, body positioning and deliverance of lines could be used in combination to an extremely compelling effect. Such a performance was further enhanced by the sensitive and intelligent use of technical effects and staging in the play. With the Prisoner positioned centre-stage under a spotlight, whilst his mother, the Old Woman (Charlie Goodman) sat in darkness with her back to her son and the audience, such a powerful choice of staging effectively conveyed both the Prisoner’s physical and linguistic separation from his mother and the utter anguish and despair that such separation brings. Charlie Goodman requires a special mention for her extremely moving and effective characterisation of the Old Woman’ figure.

Also particularly impressive was the coordination of the voice-over to voice the voiceless conversation between the young woman (Jahnavi Emmanuel) and her husband (and director), Hugh Jeffery.

Though the beginning of the play was a bit slow to become engaging, with the scene being kept in darkness for too long, ‘Mountain Language’ was a powerful performance, demonstrating a very good use of the space of the Burton Taylor, combined with effective costuming and sharp, slick coordination of lighting and sound. With some superb acting from Wadham, and a sudden yet haunting ending, it was clear that detailed attention had been put into the direction and staging of the play, which all combined to create an atmosphere of intense cruelty in which the question of what it means to call something ‘our language’ is an extremely poignant one.


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