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Mike Bartlett’s Not Talking at the Arcola Theatre

Not Talking at Arcola Theatre. Kika Markham (Lucy), David Horovitch (James) photo credit Lidia Crisafulli
Not Talking at Arcola Theatre. Kika Markham (Lucy), David Horovitch (James) photo credit Lidia Crisafulli

LondonTheatre1 were invited to watch a rehearsal of Defibrillator Theatre Company’s new adaptation of Not Talking, written by Mike Bartlett (Albion, Doctor Foster, King Charles III).

Afterwards we had a quick chat with the team behind the process. Not Talking was originally written in 2005 and performed as a radio play on BBC Radio 3, but the themes of communication and power seem even more prescient in 2018. The narrative follows two, separate storylines, which deal with social structures and institutions which discourage communication and connection.

The cast were rehearsing two scenes when characters, via direct address were telling a story about an experience they both had; but both characters told very different accounts of the story, and they didn’t seem to interact in the telling. Themes of missed messages, communication breakdowns and frustrated relationships seemed to reveal themselves.

The team were very careful not to reveal too many details (the show opens 25th April 2018), but ideas of power and its corrupting influence seemed to be very much at the front of the creative process.

Tom Froy spoke to James Hillier (director), David Horowitch (as ‘James’) and Gemma Lawrence (as ‘Amanda’)
TF: What is Not Talking About?
David: Well, I think if we answer we’ll get totally different answers. You go first, then I’ll say what I think.
Gemma: I think it’s about relationships where it becomes impossible to talk, and what that does to the individuals.
David: That was what I was going to say!
Gemma: It’s also about the dangers of being in a silencing environment and then the liberating feeling of escaping it.
James Hillier: In the performance, although the characters narrate many of the same events, simultaneously, they don’t actually interact with each other very much. In fact, the two storylines only cross once. And it’s also about the power of memory: who remembers what, and who has the power to tell that story.
David: And what you remember reflects on you. But this isn’t a play about the good guys and the bad guys. It’s about how people respond to difficult situations. No-one gets it right. It’s really tricky.

Not Talking runs 25th April – 2nd June 2018 at the Arcola Theatre.


Lucy knows James has avoided the battle. Mark knows Amanda has fought for her life. But speaking the truth could bring everything crashing down.
What happens if we live a life of not talking?
In his gripping and lyrical first play Olivier Award-winning, Mike Bartlett, unlocks a culture of silence, and gives voice to the human casualties when things are easier done than said.
Not Talking was first broadcast as a radio play on BBC Radio3 in 2007 and went on to win the Imison and Tinniswood Awards.

Defibrillator and Arcola Theatre presents
By Mike Bartlett
Arcola Theatre
24 Ashwin St, Dalston, London E8 3DL

Director: James Hillier; Designer: Amy Cook; Lights: Zoe Spurr; Composer/Sound: Simon Slater Movement: Jack Murphy; Assistant Director: Sara Amini; Associate Producer: Epsilon Productions

Cast: David Horovitch (James); Gemma Lawrence (Amanda); Kika Markham (Lucy) and Lawrence Walker (Mark).


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