Review: Discord of Discourse at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Wednesday 7th August 2019 at The Tristan Bates Theatre, London.


Bickering and debates are almost always at root about semantics. People take issue with the minutiae and from there the volcanoes either remain dormant or erupt. Couples all over the world are made up of opposites. Those with brains equally adept with the arts and the sciences are a minority. Those looking at the world in identical ways are fewer still – so when two worlds collide in one forming relationship, there’s plenty of ground to explore as each individual fascinates, puzzles, challenges and frustrates the other by turns. Discord of Discourse is at heart a story of navigating relationships in all their ups and downs. 

It would be unlikely for a narrative centring on two academics – one in the field of linguistic anthropology and the other in quantum physics – to bypass a layer of academia. Discord of Discourse does include elements of both fields of study but the way in which the story uses the backgrounds of its characters makes way for a fascinating study of how two very different people with very different world views and interests adapt to the peaks and troughs of a life side by side. The show is as much about them educating each other into more rounded and insightful individuals as it is about educating us in the complexities of connecting with those different to ourselves.

Most importantly of all, Kristina Pakhomova and Alexander Zom deliver some of the best dramatic performances to be found at the fringe this year. Their performances are compellingly assured, their chemistry entirely malleable to the shifting dynamics within their characters’ relationship and their take on a universal theme feels very authentic. The characters are likeable in isolation and as a pairing invite investment – it’s not in the conclusion of the story that the interest lies here but in the journey of this unlikely pairing as they communicate and connect for better or for worse.

Khairul Kamsani’s direction is a blend of naturalism and more abstract approaches to the space and action. His designs are a little hit and miss with sound design used well to illustrate disconnects and shifts in the relationship but also at times compromising clarity as the audio played does not always make the speech heard clear enough to understand. That may well be the intention in a piece about communication and connection but it is a little frustrating at times. The writing is a strength overall though the conclusion feels in need of greater depth.

This is an intriguing play which looks at relationships in relatable terms but also through the sophisticated lenses of the characters at the heart of the story. It’s intelligently scripted and Pakhomova and Zom give excellent performances full of subtlety. It’s in their performances that Discourse of Discord finds its greatest strength and most compelling feature. The title and the pitch may alienate people from taking a punt with this one I fear, but Discord of Discourse is definitely worth seeing.

Discourse of Discord plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe until August 10th 2019 and you can find tickets here.

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