Telling someone that you have feelings for them can be difficult enough at the best of times. Your palms go sweaty, your mouth dries up and you get butterflies in your stomach. Now imagine how much harder it would be if you have a speech impediment like a stutter or stammer. The more you try to get your words out, the more your mouth clamps up. This is the premise of Stammermouth‘s production of Just a Few Words. First performed at Edinburgh Festival in 2015 where it was nominated for the Total Theatre ‘shows by an emerging artist’ award, this show aims to raise the awareness of stuttering and ways in which it can be overcome.
Performed in the blank studio space downstairs in Little Man Coffee Co. in Cardiff city centre, the set is stripped back to the absolute minimum. In one corner is a record player which plays static and judders backwards and forwards across the same lines (insert joke about sounding like a stuck record here), and in the other corner is a pile of cue cards. These cards act partly as a simple way of communicating meaning, but at times also start to almost feel like a secondary character in the play, urging actor Nye Russell-Thompson to try to find the words he needs. The space is an excellent choice, as the minimalistic setup allows you to concentrate entirely on the words and on Nye’s captivating performance.
Self depreciating, honest and open, Nye demonstrates an incredible level of vulnerability. While he is playing a fictional character with the aim of telling someone he loves them, it is clear that much of the content is based on his own lived experience. Intimate and at times raw, the play feels simultaneously universal and highly personal in nature. As the play progresses we are invited to try and simulate what having a stammer would be like. Initially eliciting a few awkward laughs, Nye’s sincerity in trying to show us even a snippet of his experience is illuminating and allows us to feel the utmost sympathy for his situation. Functioning as a dark comedy, Just a Few Words invites us to laugh with Nye, never at him.
Many of us take it for granted that we are able to communicate fairly easily using the spoken language. Just a Few Words is an excellent and thought provoking reminder of the challenges that can arise from making ourselves understood, as well as the techniques used to help reduce or overcome stuttering. Performed with a captivating vulnerability by Nye Russell- Thompson, Just a Few Words is a simple yet spellbindingly effective account of one persons struggle to make themselves heard.
Written and performed by Nye Russell-Thompson
Produced by StammerMouth
Little Man Coffee Co. 3rd June 2018
Part of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – more information and tickets here