Speaking In Tongues

Events from nine lives interconnect and overlap in a network of interwoven threads that meet and are drawn together throughout Andrew Bovell’s play Speaking in Tongues.

Complex in plot and structure, the play is a powerful study of love, marriage, infidelity and betrayal; it demonstrates the connection – and disconnection – between individuals, partners and communities.

The play is about marital infidelity, told through multiple narratives – and there’s even a mystery to solve. Two couples set out to betray their partners, a lover returns from the past and a husband doesn’t answer the phone. A woman disappears and a neighbour is the prime subject. Contracts are broken between intimates and powerful bonds are formed between strangers.

Andrew Bovell’s ‘Speaking in Tongues’ was first performed in August 1996 at the SBW Stables Theatre, winning the AWGIE (annual award by the Australian Writers’ Guild) for best play that year. This play was the basis for Bovell’s multi AFI award winning film ‘Lantana’.

The play tackles themes of love, deceit, sex and death. It begins with two couples – Pete is married to Jane, Leon is married to Sonja – who, by chance, unknowingly swap partners in a one-night stand. Pete and Sonja resist the one-night stand, while Leon and Jane do not.

Questions are posed: Can a marriage survive this?

Is the intention to cheat the same as actually going through with it?

And there are other important threads in this multi narrative structure: a lonely man, Neil, pines for the love of his life – Sarah who moved on decades ago. Valerie goes missing and her stiletto was last seen in Nick’s car – he becomes the prime suspect.

Love, marriage, infidelity and betrayal are all explored in this tense, electrifying play about the relationships between lovers, friends and strangers, and the infinite ways people may wound one another. But it’s not all bleak, as Bovell treats his material with subtlety, humour and, importantly, compassion.

Bovell writes about his play:

“Speaking in Tongues reveals something about the moral weakness to which we are all susceptible simply by virtue of being human.” And “I really just set out to tell a compelling and haunting story about human fallibility.”


When: 25 October – 4 November 2023
Where: ACT Hub at Causeway Hall

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Directed by Cate Clelland
Featuring a fine local Canberra cast:
Arran McKenna as Leon and Nick
Steph Roberts as Sonja and Sarah
Robbie Haltiner as Pete, Neil and John
& Jess Waterhouse as Jane and Valerie.