Slap Talk is a dissection and examination of hyper-competitive language, the sort of bluster and taunts that are thrown around before the Big Game. It takes the pre-fight boast or pre-match threats and promises and pares them down to their simplest expression.
Words and phrases are repeated, different tactics tried, rhythm and delivery played with. Over six hours, James Stenhouse and Gemma Paintin face off. Between them are two cameras pointing back at their faces. This live footage is continuously shown on two screens facing the audience. It means that from our seats we watch James and Gemma in profile, while at the same time getting to see their faces zoomed in on as well.
There’s a dislocated quality to the work, watching their faces on the monitors with mouths moving, yet the sound of their voices coming from just off to the side. It separates their language from their physicality and facial expressions, allowing a deeper consideration of both.
There’s strategy, aggression, and manipulation – along with no shortage of military metaphors – in the way they talk and challenge each other. They really only speak in turn, taking the chance to sit (still on camera) and rest while the other continues. As things progress, there’s a fascinating sense that, while so much of the words being hurled are muscle and gruff, the rhetoric is ultimately empty.
Image: Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse feature in Slap Talk – courtesy of Action Hero
Review: David Collins