Setting an Exorcist-style thriller in the confines of 81 Renshaw heightened the chill factor of Tongues, the first full length play from Wes Williams and Grin Productions.
The intense four-hander told the story of Mark (Eddie Fortune), an unhinged young man seemingly possessed into committing unspeakably gory crimes by Max (Paul Culshaw), a menacing presence only he can see.
Eva (Helen Kerr) was the case worker trying to find an explanation for Mark’s unrepentant behaviour, while parish priest Liam (Dale Grant) had his own motivations for wanting to help, fighting his own demons of lust and faith.
With a brooding soundscape playing throughout the piece, a strange and unsettling atmosphere built up. It was the kind of horror theme often touched on in film but not theatre, making Tongues a quite unique experiment, almost a live action video nasty. Did it work? In some ways – the storytelling was vivid and memorable, and the twists and turns brought a genuine power to shock, especially when being played out so close to the seated audience.
Maybe I’m going soft in my old age but the cliché that Tongues was not for the faint-hearted applied. At times it was a (deliberately) uncomfortable and unpleasant watch, a result of liberal graphically violent and pornographic language. Eddie Fortune’s intense performance – and nasty end – will stick in the mind for a long time to come.