Talk To Me
Evanne Kilgannon and Kyle Hixon in Talk To Me, Image uncredited.
Some plays make for a hard sales pitch. Take Neil Flynn's latest, Talk To Me. "It's about laying cable. But there's a twist. It's a transatlantic cable so Europe and America can send each other telegrams. Picture it. A lengthy history lesson delivered at machine gun pace, in costume, with a cast of one hundred. But two actors doubling up will be plenty. Each dishing out dates and details until your brain fries." If this sounds about as interesting as watching someone lay cable, Talk To Me is actually a lot more interesting than watching someone lay cable. Even if it does involve spending quite a lot of time watching someone laying cable. Thankfully the experience proves performatively impressive. Even as Flynn's dramatically limp script places inordinate demands on its two strong cast trying to invigorate it. The dynamic duo rising to the occasion, splicing Flynn's eternally snapping story into something eminently watchable.
If factually fascinating in places, Flynn's convoluted collection of Wikipedia trivia proves narratively dull for the most part. A neat conceit at the beginning and end tries, and fails, to give events a contemporary relevance. For Talk To Me is really about the 1800s of Morse Code, Marconi, and Cyrus West Field, the latter responsible for laying the first transatlantic cable. Sea captains, investors, wives and Western Union representatives, with cameos from Queen Victoria and Abraham Lincoln, follow Field's four failed expeditions to lay said underwater cable, the fifth attempt proving the charm. A blurred dash through the era of radio waves and fibre optics brings events hurriedly up to date. Leaving you primed and ready for the next pub quiz, should questions on transatlantic cables ever arise.
If a great performance cannot save a sinking script, it's still a great performance. As is the case with Evanne Kilgallon and Kyle Hixon. Hixon’s oratorial swoop, like a snake oil salesman, is offset by Kilgallon's fastidiously articulated physicality, Kilgallon confirming her reputation as a serious talent to watch. Indeed, you feel greater connection to, and admiration for both performers than for any of the cable laying characters rushing through Flynn's snapshot script. Hixon and Kilgallon's voices, rich in timbre and texture, impressively working overtime as they cycle through years of characters and thousands of miles of cable. Neatly directed by Rex Ryan, even if, compositionally, sight lines on either side frequently suffer.
A dull tale energetically told, Flynn’s labour of love is filled with historical curios. Yet blinded by passion, Talk To Me is more likely to preach to those who prefer historical detail rather than dramatic substance. For those who appreciate strong, invested performances, Kilgallon and Hixon will assuredly reward your attention.
Talk To Me by Neil Flynn runs at Glass Mask Theatre until March 19.
For more information visit Glass Mask Theatre