Musical company

A Night of Voices by Sightline Theater Company – Palatinate

By Ellen Olley

A night of voices is a short and hard-hitting exploration of both mainstream and experimental performance art for marginalized voices.

The Birley Room is a welcoming environment, placing everyone in the room in the same lighting and level. Attendees sit prominently, chatting with their friends as the room fills up, and watching their colleagues’ performances, creating a sense of community. The stories that will be shared during the night are delivered as if to a group of friends in a discussion, rather than from above in a pulpit. We feel involved, committed, not preached. This gives the night both its dynamism and its charm.

Charming also perfectly describes the ensemble of performers. They vary in their favored genre and technical prowess, but each is equally and evocatively fully engaged in their individual staging. The recitations in which they collaborate are cleverly and passionately paced, and the conclusion “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou is a moment of particular strength.

We feel involved, committed, not preached. This gives the night its dynamism and charm

The most memorable moments of the night are orchestrated by the poetry of Yolan Noszkay, fresh from the famous Durham Theater Festival with his play “You Will Hear Me”. His talent as a poet and performer is exceptional; I found myself moved to tears during his two recitations. ‘My Mother(‘s) Tongue’ navigates the minefields of cultural versatility and mother-daughter relationships through endearing and recognizable metaphors. However, it’s in ‘A Moment of Change’ where she really shines, the intimate verse beautifully setting the servant against the horrors of conflict.

Other particularly strong moments are the self-written monologues of Stephen Ledger and Molly Knox. I initially doubted Ledger’s inclusion as a white man on a night so heavily focused on diverse inclusion, however, his discussion of the changing image of modern masculinity and the breakdown of generational trauma felt well placed in the program, and its moments of levity were a welcome relief from the tension of the showcase. With Knox, both performances brought an intensely personal touch to the night, which complemented the scenery beautifully.

The juxtaposition of political rhetoric and freedom struggle seems well suited to the times and highlights its range

The night’s other performances also added to that sense of individuality. Hemotika Nazumder’s reimagining of Marc Anthony’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” speech from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and Maya Angelou’s “The Caged Bird” sheds new light on classic texts . The juxtaposition of political rhetoric and a struggle for freedom seems well suited to the era and highlights its significance. Ayana de Zoysa tackles two monologues by Ella Hickson: her version of ‘Precious Little Talent’ is particularly striking and she comes across as a confident and convincing actress.

The production team of Tia Norris and Chavi Chung are to be commended for the energy of the night as a whole. It is a diverse program but encompasses general themes of freedom and parenting relationships that maintain a sense of overall performance. With a line-up that deals with dark and emotional subject matter throughout, there’s a risk the tone will dive below the emotional and into the miserable. However, I left the evening with a sense of hope. There may still be a lot of work to do, but even in that small room was a team of hot young creative minds looking for change – a powerful image of potential for the future.

All in all, it was an enjoyable bite-sized experience of new and better-known talent. All proceeds from ticket sales are donated to a charity supporting refugees and given that, and the charm and energy of the performers, I urge you to come to the Birley Rooms tonight and support a less conventional theatrical evening.

Image credit: Sightline Theater Company