My Theatre

25 April 2019

Traverse Theatre Company’s Mouthpiece by Kieran Hurley

By // Theatre (London)

photo by Roberto Ricciuti

Kieran Hurley creates a masterpiece with this fresh narrative of social inequality and artistic license. He writes an exceptional account of how story telling is sensitive and emotionally captivating particularly when dealing with people’s lives, and that it should never be stereotyped. Mouthpiece explores the relationship between self-employed theatre writer Libby, and a troubled teen Declan, who, whilst living on the brink of poverty, retains his passion and talent for art.

Libby is drawn to Declan’s life story when she stumbles across him, and his talent for drawing, one evening. They soon grow closer when Libby encourages him to make more of his art, though initially with hesitancy from Declan. Being brought up in a world of discouragement and instability, experiencing a troubled childhood, it’s striking to him when he comes across someone who is genuinely interested in his life. The two characters form a bond which is then ripped apart by Libby’s use of his story in a shocking delivery, which gets you on the edge of your seat, quite literally.

This play is no ordinary play regarding social inequality and societal issues. Hurley successfully intertwines these issues within a fascinating narrative where the audience really feel a part of these two characters’ lives, particularly Declan’s. Lorn Macdonald delivers an exceptional performance as Declan, immersing you in his character and life story – the irony of the entire play itself being storytelling. Macdonald injects humour throughout with his brash attitude and openness, which really shows the depth of his character. By also incorporating a series of mini monologues from Libby at the beginning, middle, and end of the play, this intelligent piece of theatre sets out to show the audience that we have the control in our lives and our path isn’t set out – we have the power to write our stories regardless of our backgrounds. I think there’s a good lesson here, not only to understand the humane side of it, but also the power it has over people and the stereotypes that can exist in storytelling.

Kai Fischer’s tiered set works incredibly well for this performance, providing an exceptional view for all audience members. The different levels the characters use on set as well as the moment Declan comes into the audience towards the end, really keeps you on your toes. You couldn’t turn away even if you wanted to. Hurley’s narrative manages to retain this engagement until the bitter end, an ending you certainly don’t want to miss! This is by far one of the best pieces of theatre I have seen in a while, and as a reviewer it is great to watch something so fresh, unique and believable. Hurley works in tandem with the actors, and the combination of a powerful narrative and incredible cast ensures this play is a must-see. I came out of the theatre buzzing and captivated in a number of ways, and it really shows that good stories need to be told. But stories are also people lives, and that means they need to be told in the right way. Never be too quick to assume how one’s story should end, sometimes a ‘mouthpiece’ can be detrimental.

We are all the storytellers of our own lives, don’t let someone else dictate how yours should end.

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