The Human Voice @ The Gate Theatre Review

Daniel Raggett’s adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice is presented at the Gate Theatre as a type of voyeuristic experience for the audience.
Courtesy of Ikin Yum.

Courtesy of Ikin Yum.

In this monologue, the woman, played by Leanne Best, is on the phone to her ex- lover. The set, designed by Sarah Beaton creates a very clear separation between audience and actor; Best is enclosed in a walled up apartment, while the audience sits on the other side of it, listening into her conversation through a headset. Best creates a sense of desperation on stage that perhaps would be more palpable if it weren’t for the clear separation from the audience. It is difficult to create any sense of attachment to the character, despite her excellent delivery. This is true simply because the audience is set in opposition to her; we are on the outside. The audience are not welcomed into this woman’s home. Furthermore, we experience her pain through a headset. It feels as if the audience is spying on this woman’s life, listening in on her phone conversations as opposed to becoming part of her life for the duration of the performance. While the set is interesting on some levels; it allows interesting images to be created within the box, specifically with Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting choices. The staging also gives a sense of this woman’s isolation. She is alone and even if someone wanted to establish a connection with her, it is impossible; she has walled herself up. The set is different and that works in parts of the performance but not through its entirety.

However, the real issue that seems to stay with me is with regards to the text itself. This is not a direct translation but an adaption of Cocteau’s text. Key moments of the original text have not made it into Raggett’s version. This changes the overall interpretation of the text and leaves me wondering; why stage this piece? This woman is vulnerable and unable to cope with her failed relationship. While we increasingly see women portrayed in more and more powerful roles in both cinema and theatre today, it is a curious choice to stage this play now. This woman is weak, pathetic, and doesn’t even seem to care. She is not empowered or empowering and she isn’t interested in regaining any sense of power. Her only interest seems to be in winning over her ex-lover’s heart once more. I was hoping to find out what this production had to offer with regards to contemporary feminism, but I only saw a woman disintegrating on stage.

I’m not sure what comment this production is offering, or trying to offer, and that’s the problem. Its comment is muddled and it
perhaps gets a bit lost in the staging choices.
Review written by Elizabeth Leeman.
The Human Voice is currently showing until Saturday 6th October 2018 at the Gate Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…
Written by Theatrefullstop