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SLY Theatre - Mountain Language

12th to 13th April 2010.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Pint-size Pinter packs a punch

Shining Lights Youth Theatre: Mountain Language, at New Greenham Arts, on Monday, April 12 and Tuesday, April 13

Shining Lights Youth Theatre's production of Harold Pinter's Mountain Language was a challenging choice for this young company. Set in a prison compound with unnamed guards in an unnamed country the play was apparently inspired by the Kurds suffering under the Turkish oppression.

The production opens with a menacing soundscape where a group of frightened women are held captive. Who are these people and why are they there? Are they refugees or prisoners? Why have they been standing in the snow for five hours?

An officer (Jak Ford-Lane) wants names; the atmosphere is tense. A young woman (Abigail Kalikwani) explains that a girl has been badly bitten by a Doberman pinscher dog. The officer demands to know what was the name of the dog: "If you tell me the name of the dog I will have it shot", he barks.

The women's relatives are accused of being enemies of the state and as they are mountain people they are forbidden to speak their own language and must communicate using the language of the capital.

A black-hooded man (Daryl Hurst), his hands bound to a wooden pole, stands on the stark white raised rostra in the centre of the stage. He appears dejected and is taken to a visitor's room where his mother (Natalie Poernig) is waiting. The smug guard (Karim Newton) harshly reminds them that they must use the language of the capital, but the mother does not speak it, creating a poignant heart-rending moment.

The man is returned to his cell and beaten when the guard announces that the language ban has been lifted. Despotism is now the rule as authority and dignity collapse and the audience are left with many questions about the human condition.

There was strong acting throughout from the 14 members of the cast, who perfectly captured Pinter's style, using pauses and silences to great effect. There was a tangible feeling of tension in some fine ensemble performances. Directed with aplomb by Pete Watt this short play was an ideal channel for the actors to display their talents. A most engaging production.