La Voix Humaine

LA BOITE: In this edgy reimagining of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 masterpiece, director Dave Sleswick has delivered the most exciting production of La Boite’s 2012 indie season so far.
La Voix Humaine
When the great filmmaker and humourist Nora Ephron passed last week, a quote of hers started doing the rounds of social media – “Be the heroine of your own life, not the victim”. Just two days after her death, in the middle of Motherboard Production’s edgy reimagining of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 masterpiece La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice), the third play of La Boite’s indie season, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the quote. Cocteau gives us a woman attempting to have one last phone conversation with her former lover, before he is to be married. Frequently interrupted by drop-outs and crackling distortion down the line, we voyeuristically look upon a woman struggling to become the heroine of her own life, while still clearly the victim of a love affair that can no longer be.

Set in a small apartment in Paris, the conversation is entirely one-sided. We never see or hear the man on the other side of the phone. We are only privy to the unnamed woman’s reactions and her mounting anxiety and desperation. Director Dave Sleswick gives us three women in the one role (Erica Field, Noa Rotem and Liesel Zink) and tips out a grandiose bag of theatrical tricks, weaving dance, text, music and video into the work and addressing the needs of a modern audience, accustomed to a certain degree of audio/visual stimulation.

The set is an open room with doors at either. It’s modern and clean and totally sparse, like someone robbed a lounge display in IKEA. Made possible by Pozible, the ever-popular crowd funding website, the set may be almost bare, but it’s extremely clever in its simplicity. Screen doors at the back of stage open and close, allowing projections from behind and strobe lighting borders the stage, occasionally illuminating the actors’ faces from below. Credit must go to Brad Jennings and Steven Maxwell for the frequent and smooth incorporation of multimedia and to Verity Hampson, for an incredibly smart lighting design.

The performers walk on and off the stage, often appearing together but never interacting. Erica Field is such a bold performer and manages to perfectly execute balance between a totally naturalistic vocal style and a sort-of vaudevillian physicality. She is a delight to watch. Noa Rotem delivers the majority of her lines in Hebrew, with subtitles beamed onto curtains hanging above the set and the screen door behind her. At first it is distracting, even a little frustrating as our focus is forced to dart between the action on stage and the words above. However, Rotem is perhaps the most compelling when she exposes us to the anger and madness her character comes to experience. Though differences in personality tend to be subtle and few, Liesel Zink brings a fragility and sexuality to her interpretation. Zink is particularly graceful on her feet, carrying us through much of the modern dance throughout the play.

There are a few questionable choices, such as having stage directions read aloud at the beginning and some of the dance pieces seemed unnecessary, though never long enough to become truly tiresome. That said, Sleswick has delivered the most exciting production of La Boite’s indie season so far, creating a tragic, striking and effortlessly energetic work beyond the relatable devastation of poor phone reception.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

La Boite Indie and Motherboard Productions present
La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice)
By Jean Cocteau
Directed by Dave Sleswick
Producer: Britt Guy & Motherboard Productions
Translators: Anthony Wood & Noa Rotem
Dramaturg: Robbie O’Brien
Production Designer: Kieran Swann
Multimedia & Visuals: Brad Jennings & Steven Maxwell
Lighting Designer: Verity Hampson
Composer & Sound Designer: Lawrence English
Creative/Choreographic Consultant: Brian Lucas
Cast: Erica Field, Noa Rotem & Liesel Zink

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove
June 27 – July 14

Peter Taggart

Tuesday 3 July, 2012

About the author

Peter Taggart is a writer and journalist based in Brisbane, Australia.