Mouthpiece – Traverse Theatre

“Cause it’s all very well wanting tae be a voice for the voiceless eh. Until you find oot the voiceless have a fucking voice and mibbe they might want tae use it.”

– Mouthpiece

New writing, Mouthpiece, by Kieran Hurley is nothing short of breath-taking. Unyieldingly dissecting our discomforts with portrayals of poverty , Hurley leaves us satisfyingly stewing in uncomfortable questions about the very nature of attending a play.

When teenager Declan (Lorn Macdonald) saves failed playwright Libby (Neve McIntosh) from taking her own life, they begin an unstable friendship in the hopes of finding where they each belong in this world. Fuelled by Declan’s story, Libby writes a play, ‘Mouthpiece’, to be staged at the Traverse Theatre.

It is at this point that we wonder whether the introspective nature of the play has taken it just too far. Quite literally putting the audience in the centre of a play within a play, the intended discomfort is achieved marvellously, but there is also a sense that these complex characters we have grown to care so strongly about are simply being used as vehicles to throw parables in our faces. The ending is undoubtedly ingenious and challenging, written with heart and leaving your mind racing with questions and ideas. Still, I do wish that the carefully crafted characters had not been so quickly shoehorned into a scenario that pushes moral values at the expense of the storyline.

Nonetheless, the message is an important one, and I could not tear my eyes away from the stage for a second. Hurley picks at the vast divide between rich and poor right here in Edinburgh, leading us to question whether efforts to ‘aid’ those in poverty are truly motivated by good intentions. He leads us to question the influence of the media to write the endings to our stories without providing a chance to think for ourselves. And perhaps most importantly, he leads us to question the line between altruism and poverty-porn. Does ‘giving a voice to the the voiceless’ simply become hearing only what we want to hear?

Quick-paced and with clever quips, Macdonald and McIntosh’s dialogue is immaculate. The to-and-fro of their expertly scripted conversation is completely absorbing. I cannot fault either actor; their performances are astonishing. At times, it is easy to become wrapped up in Declan’s compelling journey so much more than Libby’s. As the playwright in a play questioning the morals of playwrights, Libby is more a vehicle than a human, in contrast to Declan’s mouthy yet endearing personality.

Whilst this play may very well leave you speechless, I hope it doesn’t! This is a play that deserves to be talked about; it definitely deserves the attention of Edinburgh. 

PHOTOS: Traverse Theatre

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Aiyana Tandon

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