Words Words Words is an indicative example. The play is about three
apes that are being experimented on by a never-seen Dr Rosenbaum, who believes
that if they keep typing randomly for eternity they will eventually produce
“a Hamlet”. Towards the play’s end one of the apes - named Swift after the
satirist - enacts the graveyard scene in Hamlet. The rest of the scene can be played either comically or
tragically, the latter being more challenging due to the sudden change of tone
required. Most productions therefore opt to play it with humour and this
one does exactly that.
The result however is a loss of intensity and focus. Words Words Words is concerned, among other things, with the multitude of ways anti-authoritarian figures can be represented – embodied in the play by the ape named Swift – but by focusing on the humour the company leave unexplored these thought-provoking undertones.
The comedy at times smothers each of plays’ subtleties and thematic concerns. The most frustrating is A Universal Language, as despite Jason Denver’s excellent performance as Don, the moment of his revelation fails to capture the vulnerability and isolation of the characters. It is a balance that’s incredibly hard but one that is nevertheless necessary for the full impact of both Ives and Folie’s writing is to be realised.
- James Magniac