With less than a week to go before opening night, La Voix Humaine is really starting to come together. As lighting plans, director’s notes, set and publicity all begin to unite and polish the show, what strikes me most is how the libretto and the musicality have been performing a similar balancing act all along. It is fascinating to see (or hear? or both?) the interplay of music and libretto – and how both are as equally important for characterisation. Coming from a classical theatre background, it was my assumption that words are always the primary source of character, but now I am amazed at how a short silence from the piano, between a couple of violent trills, can do as much as a monologue. I can now recognise that the music is both an extension of Elle’s moods and thoughts, as well as constantly mimicking a telephone conversation. It's fascinating to see discussions about character, intention and what the other person is saying on the end of the phone - improvising the scene and then seeing that scene with the music after it's been discussed and analysed. You can really see and hear all the little nuances and character decisions Sarah has made coming through in the performance and it's amazing to see!
The biggest change to our rehearsal process this week has been marking the layout of the set. The opera takes place within a single flat, and although it is never stated in the libretto, Robin felt that Elle should be wandering around her small apartment throughout. But how to stage that? We cannot have traditional ‘flats’ onstage, as these are large, opaque and ungainly. We cannot build an apartment either, as there would be too much to obscure Sarah, and too much sound-absorbing material. Kate’s fantastic design avoids both pitfalls. The apartment is represented instead by cage-like panels, which form a fractured and geometrical approximation of a home. The set will look industrial, minimalist, and hopefully quite eerie when we combine it with glaring LED lights and a high-gloss floor. The parallels with a prison cell or an inhumane asylum are not lost on any of us. By taping out the layout, this has been useful for Sarah as she can prepare for moving in the space when at King's Place, it also adds more dimensions scenographically. Having an old-fashioned telephone prop also helps – for obvious reasons!
With only six days to go until opening night, and such a strong showing from the design and creative teams this week, it looks poised to be a fantastic evening. The only thing missing is you - see you on Sunday!
By James Osman, Assistant Director on La Voix Humaine.