Speech is a powerful tool; It can chastise, console, encourage and express, It can impart, proclaim and conceal. It can also change history. This is the very premise on which Valentijn Dhaenens’ play ‘Bigmouth’ is set. The production is an amalgamation of influential political speeches of history strung together by historically notable songs. However, as stated by Dhaenens, the play is not so much about politics but about the ambition behind them; about the people who throughout history have sought a higher status than the common man, who view themselves as supreme leaders with the right to influence the public. This god like ambition and the convincing tactics they employ to persuade the masses is what Dhaenens asks you to focus on, and recognize for future debates…
The art of Oration was first developed by The Ancient Greeks. As Dhaenens states- not a lot has changed since. Physicality, tone, emphasis, projection, pause- these devices remain paramount in public speech as does often the intention or reasoning: Freedom, nationality, religion, commemoration. A highlight for me in the production was the juxtaposing speeches of Goebbels and Patton, given in the same year to nations on opposing sides of not only the war but the world, essentially stating the exact same thing.
Dhaenens is extraordinary, interesting, and talented. His entire physical and vocal transformation while performing each individual speech is unique, varied, complete. The pace is rapid, the energy high, your emotions charged. Though the speeches range from 427 B.C.E up to 2006, each one remains relevant and memorable in their own right, and for the most part, recognizable.
For the baby boomer generation in particular, the show hits especially close to home with all but two of the speeches taking place in and around their lifetime. For my millennial generation it is a sobering reminder of a tool which remains imperative and of the utmost importance. In an age where technology based communication has become the norm, we must continue to value and develop the compelling power of the spoken word.
BigMouth plays at The York Theatre until Feb 21st.