The Human Voice – a modern masterpiece

****.5 stars

By George Dixon

Whats happens when you get seven up and coming playwriters, Ang Collins, Fiona Spitzkowsky, Georgia Symons, Jean Tong, Lewis Treston and Thomas De Angelis.

Collaborating in a project based on a single simple yet complex subject.

“The telephone and the dialogue between each party.”

Each play is unique and yet familiar, skilfully written, and perfectly performed and directed.

The comic brings sniggers and laughter and smiles as you remember similar situations, or you can completely relate to the events as they unfold.

One also becomes absorbed in the characters and the developments unfolding, and the impact they bring. Each play highlights the different levels of emotion and contact, some of which may be surprised with some enlighting twists.

From the moment you arrive, you get the feeling that this is going to be something special.

Within the foyer, a small exhibition of various types and styles of phones brought back some fond memories.

The studio’s interior is decorated with various cord or string colours, discreetly running up the walls and across the ceiling, elegant and straightforward. This theme is continued into the second larger studio used for the second half of the play.

The staging is a simple elevated black box type area. Fixed for the beginning. In the second studio, there where two larger movable sections, which are at times joined together.

Hats off to the stagehands who perfectly positions the staging and its props, allowing for the fixed stage lights’ wonderful application.

The creative team of  Benjamin Sheen Director, Eloise Kent Set and Costume Designer, John Collopy Lighting Designer and Lou Howard Stage Manager should all be congratulated for staging this production.

As you would expect, there are many simple phone situations. The opening scenes present a serious of hilarious short one or three lines of a one-sided conversation.

Presented in a scripted “theatre sports” rapid-fire on/of stage succession, covering lost signals, to birthday greetings. This type of scenario continues as the circuit breakers between the principal plays.

Sunday by Georgia Symons is a wonderful insight about a serious of phone calls taken over a lifetime between a daughter who phones and her parents every Sunday afternoon.

A line spoken by the father about the book he is reading caught my imagination.

“This book is doing my head in, but I’m sure you would love it.”

The daughter is played by Senuri Chandrani. Mother Felicity Steel and Father Chris Wallace, who needs no introduction.

Sunday is interwoven through the evening, picking up on the life journey of very clear interactional patterns.

Phone Sex by Thomas De Angelis is well scripted and acted. A play consisting of the phone, discussion between lovers separated by distance. The voice on the line Rachel

Alex Hines and Robert Ross Dwyer both Hines and Dwyer are no strangers to live performances. While the verbal exchange is intriguing, the body language says otherwise.

The message behind this play is compelling.

Old Friends by Ang Collins, Her Cait Spiker, Him Ross Dwyer.

What happens when old friends catch up via a phone call after a long time.

Life has moved on, things and dynamics have changed.

The phone conversation is good, but what about meeting face to face?

Another kaleidoscopic aspect of using the phone.

Tap Goof by Fiona Spitzkowsky, Speaks about the power of the phone line.

The emotional ties, insecurities, manipulation, fear of the unknown. Who’s on the other end, and is it really you. Do we really know how a phone works? The voice sounds like, but is it really. The use of simple props like a tin can with string brings home the thoughts of connection when you can’t see who is on the other end of the line.

It is masterfully acted by Gabe Amarachi Okorom and Alex Mason Phoumirath and the Introduction of the Choral Edge.

3am by Jean Tong.

The things that happen in the early hours of the morning are varied.

Tong’s script presents a call for help. The relationship between the seeker and the giver and the relationship between the giver and their partner. The impacts between all three, and the blurring of lines. This play is dynamic and presented with passion.

Directed by Jessica Dick with Lex Cait Spiker, SJ Amarachi Okorom and the phone voice Ari Senuri Chandrani.  The use of staging and props was excellent,

1800-RealTalk by Lewis Treston

No production on the topic of phone discussions would be complete without the

“call centre.”

Treston does not disappoint this story; it has it all.

The centre with all of its scripts and procedures (protocols) verses the free-wheeling recipient at the other end. The tension between the parties and the frustrations from both sides can only result in a battle royal.

All of this is played out superbly by Heather  Alex Hines, Gamon  Mason Phoumirath.

The fight sequencing was directed by the Movement Direction of Jessica Dick and the Fight Choreography by Josh Bell.

This project has been presented by Periscope Productions and supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program. With additional support from the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation and the Robert Salzer Foundation

 It contains coarse language, sexual themes and depictions of mental health.

The Human Voice

March 4-13

The Meat Market Stables

2 Wreckyn St North Melbourne

Tickets: https://meatmarket.org.au/event/the-human-voice/2021-03-04/

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