Review: The Human Voice


Hong Kong’s newest theatre company, Ellipsis Theatre, has christened the stage with Jean Cocteau’s monologue, The Human Voice (La Voix Humaine). The story is set in the Paris of the 1930s and is minimalist, powerful and, at times painful to watch. The play is jarringly simplistic-- a heartbroken woman’s last conversation with her former lover, before he marries another woman. The one-sided conversation lasts for almost as an hour, as the woman slowly breaks down on the phone, interrupted by crossed phone lines and eavesdroppers.

Lara Fabregas stars in the role as the unnamed woman, and portrays the affectations of a hurt woman well. Fabregas plays her character as a terrible actress, unable to hide her pain, though she tries with obvious lies and false gaiety. As the character breaks down and reveals her true emotions, Fabregas has moments of powerful emotion, but no climax ever occurs. It is mundane to watch with no overly dramatic, cinematic screams or tears— just a few moments of light weeping, and repeated hands run through hair.

SEE ALSO: Q&A: Lara Fabregas

A French play from a different era, there are several points throughout the performance in which the dialogue is distractingly awkward. Expressions that wouldn’t normally be said in English, or in 2015, remove the audience from the moment, as they ponder the meanings of unusual idioms. Despite that, Fabregas truly delivers an engaging performance, forcing the audience’s pity, disgust and sympathy. The set was appropriately simple: a dirty bed, a cluttered nightstand and a changing screen. Despite the minimalism, there was a rich amount of subtle details. Even before the play begins, the tone is set. The satin bed linens and silver hairbrush create a ‘golden age’ atmosphere, while the ashtray overflowing with crushed cigarettes hints at a troubled woman.

Overall the effect of the play is powerful. Surprisingly, it is the ordinariness of the performance that makes it extraordinary. One can almost forget it is a play - it feels so ordinary. It feels as though one is watching a real woman in her real bedroom, and this makes it almost too intimate. The audience is more than an audience, they are unwilling voyeurs, forced to watch long after their impulse to turn away, and to question their own painful relationships and pasts.

The Human Voice will run October 7th and the 15th at the Fringe Club, and part of the proceeds will go to the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation, in support of underprivileged children in Hong Kong.

Jennifer Goodie

The last show is on Oct 15, 8pm at the Fringe Club. Tickets: $250,


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