The Lake of Dead Languages

Aug 19 2016 | By More

★★☆☆☆   Underwhelming

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241) 15 – 20 Aug 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Dealing with dark, mysterious happenings, The Lake of Dead Languages from Caduceus at the Royal Scots Club threatens to plunge into deep waters but does not get much beyond the shallow end.

Carol Goodman’s book, on which this is based, would appear to be similar to The Secret History rewritten by Virginia Andrews – but it is difficult to be certain. Condensed to just over an hour, but seemingly trying to include as much as possible of the narrative, it becomes a breathless series of narrative twists and inexplicable events with a confusing time scheme.

Publicity image

Publicity image

Obviously someone loves the book enough to put it on stage, but has not had enough distance from it to ensure that it works as a play. The story of obsession, lust and Latin, centred around Heart Lake girls’ school, lurches from one melodrama to another in a way that never threatens to make a great deal of sense.

The young cast have an accordingly difficult task in getting the story across. This is one occasion when some overwrought overplaying would actually work, considering the Gothic extremity of much of what is taking place. Instead, the realistic performances merely make it seem more absurd.

Alice Harrower, as central figure Jane, is perfectly convincing, but the character’s motivations remain out of reach.

Lucy (Irene Vazquez Scortti) is supposed to be able to get others to do exactly what she wants. However, nothing she does or says on stage explains why this is so. It is left to the actor to convey this force of personality by her performance alone, which is never going to be possible – despite a portrayal that is well judged by other standards.


Sophie Williams (responsible for the adaptation along with director Maria Cleasby) turns in a much more expressive and expansive characterisation as Deirdre, which is surely the way to go. Anna Mackean and Elia Duran-Smith are more reserved and mysterious, which adds to the atmosphere but does not aid understanding.

The excesses of the story do not lend themselves easily to such diffidence; it is carried so far that there is even a problem with audibility on occasion. The male elements of the cast – Daniel Jackson, James O’Neill and Ethan Cyrus – are similarly and mysteriously underplayed.

There is no shortage of talent on display, but the result does not do it justice. Fans of the book might love it; for anyone else, even understanding it is tough.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Monday 15 – Saturday 20 August 2016
Daily at 4.00 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Facebook: The-Lake-of-Dead-Languages-1767208376899226
Twitter: @LanguagesDead


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