Mouthpiece (Soho Theatre)

Kieran Hurley’s hard-hitting, earthy play makes its London debut at the Soho Theatre, and I was pleased to be invited to review it – it proves to be a quite brilliant piece of theatre; one of the best so far this year.

Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh in Mouthpiece

Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh in Mouthpiece

A two hander, it starts when Neve McIntosh’s Libby sits at a table, speaks into a microphone, and tells us how a stage play is constructed. From this point, she is rescued from the top of Salisbury Crags by Lorn Macdonald’s young and troubled Declan, who has sought a quiet corner to draw in.

Libby, the writer, sees fresh material in Declan, the artist. Building his trust through bacon rolls, gallery trips, and a fumbled hand job on his young sister’s bed, she forms a new play about him, called in a meta way, Mouthpiece, but she makes his ending tragic, his life bleak and hopeless.

Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh in Mourhpiece

Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh in Mouthpiece

Utilising the rough speech of the poorest parts of Glasgow, the story pulls these two misfits together. She, mid-forties, with writers’ block and unsettled thoughts; he, teenage, given to anxiety and rages, carer for his small sister (‘the wee yin’).

With Libby’s conspiratorial addresses to the audience at key points in the narrative, and Declan’s heart-rending speech from within the very space from which we watch, the last drop is wrung from this strange and powerful piece.

Neve McIntosh in Mouthpiece

Neve McIntosh in Mouthpiece

It’s a tough play, a hard watch, and a piece of brilliant stagecraft. If you experience this with a dry throat and a damp eye, you will have engaged with Hurley’s world and understood the price both protagonists had to pay to make the Mouthpiece within the Mouthpiece come to life.

Directed by Orla O’Loughlin, designed by Kai Fischer with music by Kim Moore, this play did well last year at the Traverse Theatre. Both characters are pervasively and believably portrayed by the actors, who command the small stage throughout.

It continues at the Soho Theatre until the 4 May 2019, and I would urge you to go and see this tense and challenging production. For more details see

Photo credits Roberto Ricciuti.