Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“Impressive and Thought-provoking”

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Louder is Not Always Clearer- Mr and Mrs Clark , Summerhall- Techcube , August 18, 2019
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Louder is Not Always Clearer- Mr and Mrs Clark An evidence submission to the Senedd Culture Committee from a serious venue stated the commonplace, that it was tough to sell the new. That is fair, in that it applies to all sectors. The trade likes to talk about audience development. I have no idea what that it is- consumer behaviour for performance-purchase is the same as for any other sector. Brand and habit predominate then distribution and price-point.

Mr and Mrs Clark are a known entity. They will not like the language but they have brand values, established over a long time. My own first encounter is quite distinct in the memory, joy to be had on a glorious summer's day on the sands of Barmouth in June, 2010.

Their Edinburgh offering has had a good critical headwind from Wales with reviews from Wales Arts Review, Get the Chance and Critically Speaking.

And the reviewers on the ground in Scotland have piled in. In part this is probably due to the lustre of the producers' name. Two years back “(FEAR)” was garnering five-star feedback with phrases like “completely captivating”: (Below 11th Aug 2017.)

From Fest

“Jonny Cotsen. What a winning performer. Although his story has been constructed for the theatre it's listed, somewhat oddly but officially, in the Fringe category of dance, physical theatre and circus. Well, Cotsen says he feels most free when dancing. He also loves to sing. And so he dances, responding passionately to the music's bass beats, and sings.

“Cotsen is a warm and witty presence whether sharing tales of growing up with a loving mum who was nevertheless in denial about his deafness, going on first dates, using the outlet of social media or coping with hearing aids. This unpretentiously charming show has been made for both him and us. It's a story that needs telling, and it's got a communal ending you're not likely to forget.”

From Edinburgh Festival Magazine

“As the show begins Jonny takes us on an immersive experience of his world. We learn how deaf people are to speak, how they learn to make the sounds to build words with. We learn about his childhood in rural Wales, his relationship with his mother and his love of art and swimming.

“Teenage dates are, unsurprisingly, a good source of comedy. Through mime and interpretative dance, Jonny guides us through the pleasure he takes in nightclubbing and his fear of sex in the dark. Audience participation is obligatory and a layered soundscape, built up by on-stage DJ Chris, gives us a sense of the disorientating sensory overload that hearings-aids can induce.”

From Edinburgh Festival Magazine

“Louder is not Always Clearer is a strong example of an emerging genre, the autobiographical show that addresses a wider social issue. Jonny Cotsen offers a personal glimpse into life as a deaf man and combines rhetorical force with a winning charm and plenty of anecdotes.

“The pace can be relentless, as Cotsen leaps between events and reflects on how his mother has treated him. Throughout, he is positive and witty, allowing the polemical intentions to be carried along by a sense of fun and joy. Bracingly unapologetic and accepting, Louder argues for the importance of this new genre while presenting an insight into life experiences that are often hidden by either paternalistic concern or social ignorance.”

From Total Theatre

“Louder Is not Always Clearer is a two man duet. A man in a T-shirt is sitting behind a desk, facing the audience. On the desk there is a computer.

“Another man is wearing a white doctor’s coat behind a second desk. On this desk are a computer and a sound mixing desk. On the stage are a microphone, a stand, a projection screen, a loudspeaker, a bucket.

“There are many touching moments in the work. It starts with learning to speak, to make sounds. It is often hard, you see the strain in Jonny’s face, his neck muscles moving to the sounds.

“And in a sense I wish there were more of the silences Jonny speaks of, more of the awkwardness, because for us too, sat in the auditorium, this is like one of the awkward dates he speaks of. It is often hard to know how to communicate with people different to what we know, our worries of how to do it right, how we are perceived, how to be sensitive, getting in the way.

“And here lies the true impetus of the show: to understand that difference is to know how to embrace it.”

From What's On Stage

“The odd thing when you walk out of this impressive piece of physical theatre by deaf artist Jonny Cotsen is how loud the world suddenly seems. It's not that there hasn't been dialogue and even blaring music in this study of the relationship between the deaf and hearing worlds; but it makes you conscious of sound and the way you communicate, both with speech and with silence.

“It's an impressive and thought-provoking effect of a delicate work, carefully constructed by the Welsh theatre company Mr & Mrs Clark in association with Cotsen and starring him and Gareth Clark. It begins with silence; Cotsen opens his mouth and appears to want to speak, but no sound comes. "I find words difficult," he types on a laptop and we read the words on the screen.

“But signing, discovered later, clearly gives him a freedom that full integration with the hearing world does not. The explorations of Cotsen's vulnerabilities and the clever switches of tone take in a lot of humour. His impressions of the way that hearing people talk to the deaf are both very funny and rather shaming; the moment when he asks us to try to lipread different phrases really fascinating.

The conclusion is liberating fun. It's a charming, engrossing show.”

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Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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