Hotel room acts as stage for clever, introspective production

Fiona McAndrew performs in The Human Voice. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Fiona McAndrew performs in The Human Voice. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

An audience of 20 people is led from reception down a corridor, into the lifts and up to the third floor and then into a hotel room.

It is a luxury hotel room in the Southern Scenic Hotel, with only a desk, large bed, the phone, wine glasses and complimentary cheeses. It is a small space, inviting introspection.

As those of us who have spent time quarantined in a five-star hotel will know, the telephone becomes your friend, your weapon and your enemy, the link to the outside world, a lifeline of sorts. The line always goes dead; the cord twists around your neck.

It is an ancient and classic human story. However this retelling seems entirely new and evolves almost imperceptibly.

The only character in Jean Cocteau and Francis Poulenc’s one-act opera, Elle, is anonymous, universal and alone. She should not be confused with Elle, the justice seeking ice queen, of Verhoeven’s 2016 movie.

Cocteau’s carefully spun drama evolves via a one-sided-conversation. The reactions of the people on the other end of the line are indicated by the changes in mood of the music from whining to guttural to tragic.

The world both outside and inside the four walls is filled with manipulation and lies as Elle’s world implodes. The setting, a real hotel room with the familiar props, is isolating.

Singer Fiona McAndrew gives a strong performance making clever use of the limited space as her character seeks to control the outcome.

McAndrew uses a range of different styles from spoken voice to bel canto so the drama never seems contrived.

Pianist David Kelly hides "offstage" in the bathroom and, cleverly, the music appears to come via the radio clock on the bedside table.

• The Human Voice, Southern Cross Hotel - Saturday, April 17th 

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