THE HUMAN VOICE
Charing Cross Theatre
23rd Dec to 30th Dec 2022
“Poulenc’s final opera, is based on Jean Cocteau’s play ‘La Voix Humaine.’ The opera is the last conversation between a young woman and her lover, who is abandoning her. Through her little lies, and his thunderous lies, the truth of their relationship becomes clear. It is an overwhelming account of love, and love’s ending.”
Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars
When one thinks of Opera, the images are large, tall, big cast, everything thrown at it, and expensive. That isn’t how opera began – it was always for the common man, accessible, but yes, likely to have everything thrown at it.
So this one has lights and video, and wandering minstel-esque clarinetist, but not sure why these musicians are included.
Arriving into the theatre and the theatre is cut down to size – which actually looks sumptuous and classy. The wrap-around silks with external window projections just glorious. There’s a large leather sofa and a grand piano. All rather exciting.
The show starts and the “preset” woman on the sofa stands and becomes the pianist. The woman on the floor stands and becomes the singer. I’m unclear why the pianist is wearing the same outift as the singer, or why she wears a similar wig and swishes it when the singer swishes hers. The singer likes a drink, don’t we all, and likes to smoke real cigarettes, a lot. My clothes are now in the washing machine as a result of this affectation.
The video is rather ethereal. It works as expected but the content is deliberately out of focus and possibly shows a man’s hand caressing a woman’s blouse. It projects onto the wrap-around fabrics. Not sure why this was added into the production. It’s more distracting than enhancing. The lighting is moody and rather melancholy. Not always showing Ella’s face or clarity on time of day.
The main problem is the plateau of emotion, The show starts and finishes rather in the same vein – restrained opera-style singing into a telephone. The direction not really allowing full vent to emotions. The breakup and failed relationship all feels rather “polite”. The anger never allowed to give full vent!
Maybe the show would work better if updated to a modern telephone so it could be “hands-free” allowing the singer the full stage and invitation to sing to the audience rather than a handset?
A quality cast and production that doesn’t quite fulfil.