Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: The Whisper of the Waves, Shinehouse Theatre, Prague Fringe 2024 ★★★★★

Harnessing the power of human loneliness, the surreal and existential nature of saying goodbye, alongside the futility of endeavours in the face of mother nature – The Whisper of the Waves is a humming tribute to the human spirit amidst the crashing flood of climate disaster. Performed by a formidable seven person ensemble over ninety minutes in a mix of tragi-comic clowning, emotive and introspective narrative storytelling, and side-swiping meta-theatre. Shinehouse Theatre explore the furthest corners of the human psyche through a series of devastating, heartfelt vignettes of Taiwanese life.

A queer couple travel to Vietnam to try for a baby through science, but find themselves instead wrapped in disappointment. While one wishes to hide away in the hotel room, the other wants to explore Hanoi. The owner of a poorly cat smothers her pet in gifts and affection, only to wonder whether she’s extending its’ suffering. A taxi driver is caught in an unusual relationship with a potted plant, and then natural disaster strikes.

It feels throughout the piece that a wave of something is following our characters through their life’s journey – this comes to reflect both the potentialities of physical destruction of your life by nature, but also comes to find itself as a wave of isolation, loneliness, grief, despair. Despite these weighty themes, The Whisper of the Waves is characterised by a light, absurd touch in place of any overbearing traumatic aura. There is an inherent playfulness in the way the writing handles the panic-stricken nature of its’ subjects’ lives.

In some ways this piece is a menagerie, and you feel as though you’re staring into the Goldfish Bowl of Taiwanese daily life. The kaleidoscopic nature of the piece does not withdraw depth however, which makes the piece immensely satisfying to see come together, and at points intensely gripping. Po-Yuan Chung’s script is crafted with a breathtaking amount of care for the emotions of its’ characters. They come across as unsettlingly realistic at times and at others, like dolls in Chung’s playhouse.

The players’ faces are drawn in bright white with blue streaks for the whole piece, and large scale sections of movement intersperse and interrupt moments of tenderness or isolation. Despite working as a formidable ensemble the entire time, the actors have still managed to capture how truly alone each character is. Scenes of every day street life featuring the characters highlight how their behaviour might be perceived as strange by others, yet they are all just as unusual as each other when it comes down to their relationships with the World around them.

In between moments of striking emotion, we hear vignettes of Chung’s writing and directing process played as radio interviews in the taxi driver’s car. While I was worried this would become a shallow way of overstating the play’s themes, it grows into an entirely separate plotline exploring interpretation and misinterpretation in art work, as well as a critique of consumerism played with a light hand. This highlights the polish and craft that Shinehouse have given to this broad scope of themes.

The performances throughout are absolutely captivating, with actors reading long monologues while blindfolded, as other members of the ensemble recreate the storytelling in front of them. There is no moment where this feels disconnected, and throughout the over exaggerated performances reflect images of disaster reconstruction and the gravity of the wounds inflicted on us by loss. I absolutely adored seeing the piece come together.

The Whisper of the Waves asks us to cherish every moment with the people and things we love, to never forget that however strange other people may seem, we are all suffering from the same set of emotions, and that in light of disaster, saying a goodbye the right way matters most to everyone involved.

Beautifully performed, with enthralling movement and gorgeous storytelling, this piece will stay with you for a long time. This is a truly mesmerising creation.

Recommended Drink: The Whisper of the Waves is a Blue Lagoon cocktail – fizzing, sharp, and refreshing.

Performances of this show have now concluded at Prague Fringe. Keep up with Shinehouse Theatre online for future showings.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2024), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023-24), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them