Review: La Voix Humaine
Je t’aime… Je t’aime… Je t’aime…
Having never been blessed with an ability to sing (trust me, ask my parents), I’ve always found myself in absolute awe of those who can. Unsurprisingly, Kate South delivered yet again in a one-woman opera that left me walking out of the Corpus Playroom feeling deeply, deeply inferior.
Based on Poulenc’s powerful opera of the same name, “La Voix Humaine” encapsulated the importance of human connection and the fear we all share of being alone. The audience listened, entranced, as Elle (Kate South), having recently been abandoned by her lover, delved into her romantic past in search of answers as to what went wrong. Co-directors Anna Peterson and Kate South’s clever adoption of the telephone prop emphasised both the physical and mental distance between Elle and her ex-lover. The phone’s repeated loss of connection helped blur the line between truth and fiction even more; the once confident woman crumbled in front of us, uniting the mediums of music and stage as the audience collectively question whether Elle will ever be able to move on.
The opera would not have had the same impact but for the incredible work of Ben Cole, whose piano accompaniment really brought the tale to life. Critical points in the plot were hallmarked by changes in tone and lighting (thanks to lighting director, Amber Heal), which were much appreciated given the domination of French language in the song. Despite my tragically limited pre-GCSE understanding of French, I was able to follow the plot with ease – this is an asset to the commitment of the production team, who made a (potentially) inaccessible medium of entertainment accessible for a wider audience.
The work of the production designer, Rachel Kelly, should also not go unnoticed. The true 1950s Parisian apartment feel was captured by the amazing set design – stand-out pieces, such as the old bed and vintage cabinet were complemented by accessorial touches such as the “pendule electrique,” wine bottle and knick-knacks. The incredible organisation of producer Orchid Balgobin ensured the smooth running of the show, making the 40 minutes absolutely fly by.
Being a one-woman opera, I initially feared that the clarity or poignancy of the plot may be dampened – I stand corrected. Coupled with the intimacy of the Corpus Playroom, Kate South provided the locus of the audience’s attention, enabling us to focus on one person and her despair. Visually and auditorily, we are left with no option but to learn of Elle’s suffering. The prior-discussed apartment-style set design made it feel as though I was a part of her life and inner monologue – whilst that sounds like a fairly uncomfortable image, I can safely say that the opera would not have had the same impact had it not been for the light timbre of the one-woman show.
This powerful performance of Poulenc’s tragédie lyrique ultimately left me walking out of the Corpus Playroom wondering who I am, why I’m here and why I haven’t been bestowed with such talent.
La Voix Humaine was a One-Night Stand performance at the Corpus Playroom on the 7th of March 2023.
Feature image credits: Rishi Sharma