The Human Voice at the Gate Theatre
Jean Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine, which was famously made into a one-act opera for soprano by Francis Poulenc, was designed to revive art in its simple form without the need for technical effects. The play featured one woman, one telephone and one last conversation where the phone cutting off frequently and the actress’s varying poses would reflect the structure of the play.
Daniel Raggett’s adaptation of the tragic play puts the audience in headphones overlooking the living room of a young woman, Elle – played by Leanne Best – who is awaiting a final conversation with her ex-lover. The view through the window while wearing the headphones feels very intrusive in the manner of Francis Coppola’s The Conversation and keeps the viewer in a similar suspense, awaiting something big that in Raggett’s The Human Voice never manages to materialise.
An impressive set design by Sarah Beaton does not make sense in the age of the mobile phone, which keeps Elle locked up in the home, dramatically pained by the anticipation of the call when she could very well be lazily flicking through pictures on an array of social media; or indeed she could be pacing around the city desperately trying to move on while always glued to the object through which she maintains hopes of one last connection with her ex-lover.
Elle’s ex is due to be married to his new partner, which sets the scene for the monologue that triggers her devastating despair. This is further dramatised in her restraint because of the telephone, which made Poulenc’s tragédie lyrique such a transcendental theatre piece.
However, in Raggett’s version, it is the lighting design by Jessica Hung Han Yun that gives some structure to an otherwise dull monologue that drags painfully on. This play lacks the poetic quality of Cocteau’s tragedy and reveals a limited effort in terms of script and direction.
Photo: Ikin Yum Photography
The Human Voice is at the Gate Theatre from 13th September until 6th October 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for The Human Voice here: