Get a personalised letter from Santa

Theatre Review: Not Talking, Arcola Theatre, Hackney

PUBLISHED: 13:32 09 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:32 09 May 2018

Not Talking at the Arcola Theatre

Not Talking at the Arcola Theatre


Five star review for a classy revival of Mike Bartlett’s play about warring couples who don’t communicate

Not Talking at the Arcola Theatre Not Talking at the Arcola Theatre



Some theatrical endeavours ooze class from every pore. From the moment the lights go down and the action fires up, you know you are in a pair of trusty, safe old hands.

The title of the Arcola’s riveting revival of Mike Bartlett’s 2006 radio play couldn’t be more literal.

Two couples sink beneath the wave of silence; crucified by their own inability to communicate and heal their wounds. And yet it all starts so innocuously. A brief tinkle of Chopin at the piano may set a sombre tone, but it is the testimonies of elderly couple James (David Horovitch) and Amanda (Gemma Lawrence) that really set the teeth on edge.

Side-by-side they stand, narrating aspects of their history. They do not talk towards one another. They merely speak out into the ether and document a series of life-altering events from way back over time.

Sadness adorns every syllable of their story. They then stand in the shadows to allow young couple Mark (Lawrence Walker) and Lucy (Kika Markham) to step forward. They do not engage directly either, but they speak excitedly of the first flushes of their romance that ignited at the army barracks.

As their story unfolds, however, further details bring about an uncomfortable reality.

What begins as two unconnected tales unfurls with increasing overlaps, until the two are woven expertly together in unpredictable – and cliché-free – ways.

Bartlett’s source material is meticulously constructed, provocative and moving. Although the play precedes it, there are shades of Andrew Haigh’s film ‘45 Years’ in its stately observations. The is even an ambience that echoes Pinter, and the juxtaposition in the early chapters of an elderly couple falling apart as the young couple come together is a stylistic masterstroke.

The direction is articulate, yet tasteful, the stage design is simple, yet explored to its full potential, and the performances reverberate compellingly with a measured gravitas.

All in all, there is undeniable proof that this enterprise has been translated from the airwaves to the stage with aplomb.

A must-see.

Latest Hackney Stories

Yesterday, 17:30

The Three Lions record goalscorer would like to see someone like Spurs forward Harry Kane receive the same treatment in the future

Yesterday, 17:00

Behind closed doors friendly: Leyton Orient 1 Bristol City 2

Yesterday, 16:00

The latest news from the Hackney Super5League

Yesterday, 13:30

After losing 4-1 at Manchester United Women on November 4, Karen Hills’ team will look to bounce back this weekend

Yesterday, 18:00

Optician director Jayesh Maru has seen his way to the ancient mountain-top Inca capital of Machu Picchu and has found his way back to east London.

Yesterday, 13:00

Veteran manager signs up for stint on reality TV show

Yesterday, 12:00

The 66-year-old, who helped produce ‘The Greater Game’ play, praised the work of Justin Edinburgh

Yesterday, 18:43

Three men were gunned down in what police feared could be a copycat shooting, inspired by a brutal gang warfare film which MPs had tried to ban. 
They feared the movie Colors - about teenage gangs in Los Angeles - might have sparked off a wave of copycat violence in Hackney. 
In the movie gangs “cruise” the streets in cars, taking pot shots at rivals. 
John Lionel was almost blinded in one eye when he was blasted with a shotgun outside Trends nightclub in Amhurst Road, Stoke Newington, where he was talking to his friends Stephen Regan and Lorne Williams.


If you are an unpaid carer in Hackney over the age of 25, who would like to get back into work, then Working for Carers can provide the practical assistance and support you need.

Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists