Camden New Journal
As the former Yugoslavia struggles through the tumultuous aftermath of 10 years of war and revolution, with the effects being felt throughout Europe, it is a timely moment for a play focussed on these issues.
Brian Woolland's Double Tongue is set near the Serbian border in southern Hungary, in a place called Szeged and follows a young American student, Robert Lee, studying his PhD, looking at the changes of religion. He goes on a language course and falls for the young, beautiful teacher, Anna Kovacs. Together, they unwittingly become embroiled in antique smuggling and gun running, orchestrated by Anna's English boyfriend, James, and the sinister Serb, Milan.
Occasionally, fringe theatre is really outstanding and it is so here. The relationship between Robert and Anna works well, and the inner conflicts which both face are strongly brought to the fore.
Robert is played by Ben Pitts, who deftly captures the young American's pure naivity, while Krizstina Erdelyi is excellent as the feisty yet insecure Anna. Serge Soric as Milan is very powerful and scary, his anger at the policies pursued by America and NATO is almost genuine in its ferocity and many of the political points that were raised had much significance.
The play also tackles religion in a most unusual fashion. James (Giles Foreman) is trying to export an original Black Madonna image, and he undergoes a conflict with an image of the Madonna, eerily played by Christopher Simpson, who also doubles as James' prostitute boyfriend. Sub-plots can often work against a play, yet on this occasion it fits in effortlessly.
Substantial sections of the play are performed in Hungarian and Serb, yet none of this detracts, it adds a greater sense of realism to the whole proceedings. Video was cleverly interwoven with theatre in this innovative production; it has to be one of the most effective and thrilling plays around at the moment.
The Gate isn't the only place where east is going west. Head north to the Angel, and you'll hear the whirr of Nato helicopters over the Old Red Lion. Located mainly in the Hungarian town of Szeged, Brian Woolland's politically charged new play is dominated by the air-strikes of April 1999.
Over in Eastern Europe from New York to research his theological PhD, Robert falls for Hungarian language teacher, Anna, whose British art-dealing partner James is doing a hot trade in icons for guns while bruising with the Russian mafia to indulge his taste for rent boys. Into the fray storms Serbian loose cannon Milan, foaming at the mouth about America's pathological fear of a united Europe, and jealous of Robert's relationship with Anna. But it is Robert who is left whimpering and with blood on his hands: “Shit! I didn't do it! What'll I tell my Dad?”.
It doesn't take a genius to twig to the metaphors flying around here, but the characters are viscerally real and complex in this thought-provoking and potent piece. Kimie Nakano's morgue-like design, Marc Rosette's ecclesiastical lighting, Michael Walling's smooth direction and a barrage of committed performances (Krizstina Erdelyi's Anna is as luminescent as Serge Soric's Milan proves disturbing) all cry out for a larger space.