Review: Don’t Talk to Strangers

The Forge @ Vault Festival, London
27th, 28th, 29th February and 1st March at 6pm

“In the beginning there was sound…”

Don’t Talk To Strangers is described by its Production Company Hot Cousin* as   “An extraterrestrial love story. A disco in a galaxy far far away. A rom-com set at warp speed” and yes to all of that. This is a  theatre experience out of this dimension but it is also about something much more human. and it utilises sound  to tell that story in a very energetic and exciting way.

The show centres around an interview with Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan. If, like me, you don’t really know who Carl Sagan was (apart from being the man who wrote the novel “Contact”) he was an American astronomer who along with writer Ann Druyan were responsible for “The Golden Record” which was a gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. Oh, and this record was launched into space.  This is really happened.

The dialogue used in the show is based on an actual interview transcript but it is recreated and remixed into a myriad of different things. The use of sound throughout the show was incredibly dynamic and adventurous as the words are looped on repeat but the performers twist and reposition them into dogs barking, the sounds of anguished crying and distortions.

The cast bounce off each other and each of the performers were a joy to watch; Elana Binysh does a great job  as interviewer to Stephanie Fuller’s “Ann” and Ally Poole’s portrayal as “Carl”.  Fuller and Poole really give their all as the loved up couple and all three are adept at navigating the changes in performance that the ever changing soundscape brings. The final cast member Madeline Lewis was the alien/space figure. She was mostly silent throughout the piece but was equally strong by her movement work.  The dance and movement was really quite beautiful.  There was a really lovely point when the entire company began to dance but in a very quiet way.  Sound is everything in this piece but they totally understood the importance of also using silence to great impact.

One niggle I had was even though this is a lively and high-energy performance, there is a challenge in keeping the momentum up with the same dialogue /scene being done over and over which I’m not sure 100% works.  The brevity of the piece as a whole (about 50 minutes) is smart as if the show was much longer I do think the repetition might be too much.

This is definitely an avant garde type show so if you like your theatre a bit more experimental, then this may well be something you’d really enjoy.

*Quite possibly the best company name I’ve heard.

© Sarah Browne 2020

For info of upcoming productions by Hot Cousin for them on Twitter @yourhotcousin

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 16.13.05

© Hugo Bainbridge

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