Small Mouth Sounds at Darlinghurst Theatre Company

How do you speak your mind when you can't say a word? 

Six runaways from city life embark on a silent meditation retreat nestled away in the quiet of the woods. Their vows of silence collide with the achingly human need to connect; how do you speak your mind when you’re forbidden to say a word?  Hilariously profound, Bess Wohl’s smash hit transcends language and asks how do we address life’s biggest questions when words fail us?

Rosie spoke with actor Amber McMahon about this unique work and how theatre makers can use the stage to tell stories in new ways. Read the full interview below:

Amber McMahon

Small Mouth Sounds has been performed throughout the world to rave reviews, finally making its way to Australian audiences at Darlinghurst Theatre Company. How do you think the Sydney audience will respond to this work, and what can they expect from Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production?


This is a fabulous ensemble piece, and we’re loving developing the unspoken dynamics of this motley group. 

There’ll also be some wonderful schadenfreude going on for the audience too, watching this group of miserable lost souls wrestle with their own demons while being thrust into a silent navigation of everyone else’s too. 

How did you become involved with Small Mouth Sounds? What was it about this story that made you want to help bring it to life?

The director, (the wonderful Jo Turner) asked me to read the play and I was immediately attracted to the unusualness of it. It’s rare to play in this way; in a piece with so little text but so many entertaining and heartbreaking scenarios. Every character is so vulnerable, and yet so exposed by the difficulty of remaining silent when their minds are so noisy. 


A play based at a silent retreat creates a setting where we rely heavily on the actors’ physicality and emotional expression rather than vocality to understand the stories unfolding in front of us. How do you think an audience’s experience is shifted when focusing on these elements? Are there any concerns about storylines becoming lost in translation?


I think that’s it’s joy. If we do it right, the storylines will be just as palpable as if they were shouted from the heavens. It’s about body language, subtle signs, shared energy, the change of temperature in a room, vibes, looks, obeying the rules and breaking them. It’s the stuff that makes us human. 


As an actor, how does the rehearsal process change when working on a production that has minimal dialogue? What challenges have you faced during this process?

I think it requires a rich collaborative style in the rehearsal room. It’s not just about what you say, it’s about how you respond to a group dynamic. You don’t learn lines of dialogue, you learn sequences of thought and how to mark the changes clearly. Jo then has to curate all of these weird mercurial responses to guide the audience’s eye. 


What do you hope to achieve with Small Mouth Sounds?

A little peep show window into what is usually an immensely private practice for people. A show that reminds us that we’re all in it together on what can often feel like a lonely journey, and perhaps there’s some comfort in that. 



Favourite production you’ve ever seen?

Anything by Barrie Kosky. 


You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

Italy. Rome. Eternal. Stunning. Delicious. 


Dream show/role to perform in?

Would love to sing in something again soon. Something super strange. 


Plays or musicals?

Plays for me but I love music and how it functions in any show. I do love the energy of musicals. I love the depth of character you can excavate in plays though. 


A hobby you have beyond the theatre?

Cooking, listening to as much jazz as possible, classic cars made before 1969, architecture walks. 


What’s next for you after this show?

Van Badham’s Banging Denmark for STC at the Opera Studio. 

Small Mouth Sounds opens at Darlinghurst Theatre Company's Eternity Playhouse on May 3 2019. You can get your tickets online at or call (02) 8356 9987

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