One of this year’s Sydney Festival’s much anticipated headliners, Jean Cocteau’s iconic 1927 single-character show, La Voix Humaine, takes us into the cold, lonely world of one woman’s cataclysmic mental decline after a relationship breakup.
It’s dark, haunting and certainly harrowing, but at 70 minutes long, it’s the perfect length.
Performed on a stripped-bare stage in Dutch with English subtitles and directed by Ivo van Hove, an unnamed woman (Halina Reijn) paces her cell-like, single room in a high-rise apartment, separated from the audience by one large, sliding window. From here we hear one half of a telephone conversation with her ex-lover and we see Reihn’s character fall deep, deep down into a spiral of self-loathing, nausea, hysteria and a whole heap of other tumultuous emotions one would expect from the newest resident of Dumpsville.
There’s no doubt a lot of talent went into this production. Reijn (known widely for her appearance opposite Tom Cruise in Valkyrie) captures the essence of the unnamed woman perfectly. You hate her and feel for her at the same time: you beg her to get a hold of herself, but as the story progresses, you realise it ain’t gonna happen. Combined with the sparse set, great use of audio and realistic props (projectile vomit), there’s a snowball’s chance in hell you won’t empathise. Sadly sometimes it’s a little confusing.
To begin with, the inconsistencies between the original and the modern adaption can be perplexing if you’re not big into contemporary theatre. For example, our Jane Doe begins with a somewhat prolonged conversation with a telephone operator, yet flicks on some Beyonce via her iPod a little later on. Add in subtitles, half a conversation and a breakdown, and there’s a possibility you might not always follow.
That said, the production itself is expertly delivered, and the Carriageworks space is well utilised. This is certainly one to see if you’re into hopeless futures and irreproachable sadness.