REVIEW: The Language Archive
Why don’t you understand me?
We often don’t speak the same language within our relationships. We can be locked inside our own thoughts and feelings, lacking the ability to express them. Love is often a foreign language. And unfortunately, the registrar doesn’t provide an interpreter to married couples.
This is the main problem between George (Harry Burke) and his wife Mary (Teuta Day). George is a cold-minded linguist who is fluent in Greek, Latin, French, Cantonese, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and Esperanto, but just can’t find the protesting words when Mary announces that she is leaving him. It is not a surprise, since they misunderstood each other during their whole marriage.
George works in a Language Archive, which aims to conserve the languages that are dying out. His loyal partner in this work is Emma (Cara Fung). Her character is heartrendingly believable, in all her gawkiness. She loves George hopelessly and unobtrusively from the sidelines. Whenever she decides to leave this toxic love, one kind word from George is enough for her to jump straight back into his life. I almost felt like running up to the stage and giving her a tight hug!
Teuta Day is as reliable playing Mary’s silent depression in her marriage as in her empowered happiness without her husband. Her transformation on stage is spectacular. Harry Burke was brilliant: his intonation is highly suggestive, and he embodies the clumsy and seemingly indifferent George with awkward gawky gestures.
Despite the sad plot, the play laughs in the face of its own tragic love stories. The most comic characters in the play are Alta (Ananya Mishra) and Resten (Conor Dumbrell), an old couple who are the last speakers of an almost extinct language. Unfortunately, they hate each other so much that they are not willing to have any conversation in the future. Mishra’s and Dumbrell’s quarrels are so hilarious it is as if they are characters in a farce. Their couple is just adorable, both in their hatred and humour.
The minimalist set built from white boxes is creative, expressive, and easily transformable. It was a meaningful moment when the otherwise speechless George’s proliferating thoughts and emotions were projected on the screen of boxes. However, their use of tech was not always so successful: I still don’t know how the story finally ended, since the music was so loud during the last lines of the play.
The play wonderfully points out that all foreign languages open up a new world.