Schizophrenic Ray is released into the care of his brother Pete. He falls in love with Laura, who is trying to escape from her abusive ex.  Mental illness, sibling tension, dysfunctional relationships – can we say gigantic soap opera flop?

Actually, no. Some Voices looks unsentimentally at these themes without being unsympathetic. There’s a touch of humour and caricature to the characters, which blends nicely with the otherwise down-and-out realism of their roles.

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Those roles are, on the whole, played well. Joe Eyre makes an excellent Ray after a stiff start. Probably more a prop than acting problem though, since the stiffness vanished later when he had something to do with his hands. Eyre as Ray is a lanky, gauche deadbeat, a mix of sullen and sensitive teenager. It’s an engaging performance, faltering only when he tries to switch to more upbeat registers.

Lindsay Dukes, on the other hand, doesn’t have any problem switching emotional gears as ‘hard nut’ Laura. Dukes tramples all over the battered woman stereotype with a credible show of fear and angry bravado against her abusive ex, Dave, played suitably boorishly by James Corrigan. Flitting between edgy cynicism and vulnerability, Dukes also brings out the best in Eyre’s acting, making this a bittersweet working-class romance.

And for this cast, at least, that romance seems to be central. The other main theme, Pete and Ray’s relationship, hardly moves forward. Jacob Lloyd as Pete keeps haranguing his brother, and it’s difficult to detect any fraternal love or internal life under all that bluster.

As for the mental illness theme, it might as well have been invisible. In fact I’d rather it to be completely invisible, rather than re-watch one scene where Ivan – another mental patient, played by Adam Baghdadi – declaims to an invisible audience while Ray shivers melodramatically. I know schizophrenia is a break from reality, but it shouldn’t break so hard from the overarching realism of the play. Especially when it flattens into stereotype.

But it says something about the strength of the script and the acting that even with two of the main themes sidelined, Some Voices is well worth watching. The only reason it doesn’t get four stars is because the cast keep rattling off their lines. Hopefully they’ll savour some of the moments more, and if they do, this will certainly be a production for you to savour too.

three stars