Fest / Polly Checkland Harding

Mouthpiece centres around a writer who, after the death of her mother, cannot speak – but must give a eulogy at the funeral. It is also—ironically—a show in full, formidable voice: the two performers, Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, together deliver one woman’s private, grieving tirade through dialogue, song, ululation and screams. Mouthpiece looks at how important and inconceivable it feels to represent the life of another; a lone microphone, the symbolic site of the eulogy, acts as a kind of vacillating magnet – a lure one minute, repellent the next.

What makes Mouthpiece extraordinary, aside from the utterly fearless performances and phenomenal choreography, is how much is contained within it. The pairing of two people is used to achieve a myriad of different effects, through which daughterly bereavement becomes a conduit for the dissection of womanhood itself. Inner conflict is cleverly staged as Sadava parodies Nostbakken’s dilemmas about what to wear to the funeral – capturing how simultaneously crucial and crass this decision feels. Reflections on her mother’s restricted diet are counterpointed with a sales pitch on restrictive garments – and, at one point, Sadava adopts an external voice to critique the privilege contained in the piece.

The sheer weight of oppression on female experience is brilliantly accumulated, as the script cites adverts, magazines, jokes, films, insults – and even the science of tone, around which contradictory things are expected (low for power, high for feminine). By being rooted in the story of the piece, this doesn’t feel moralising – but make no mistake, this is an angry, punishing piece; exhausting even. It is also relevant, vital, and may leave you, too, speechless.