La Voix Humaine
Jean Cocteau and Francis Poulenc
Directed by Nikolas Sodiant
Folie à Deux
Adapted by Two Tongue Theatre
Pros: Two great performances, displaying a wide array of skills from both companies.
Cons: Few to speak of. The interval between the plays could have been a little shorter.
Our Verdict: A great double bill, accessible to French and English speakers alike. Great stuff from the Voilà! Festival.
is an annual French-language theatre festival held at The Cockpit
theatre. It celebrates the fact that in terms of number of French speakers, London is the fifth most populous city in the world, trumping even the majority of cities in France. The festival lasts twelve days, and boasts a number of different productions, from Molière to improvised theatre, plus many workshops. As Everything Theatre’s only fluent French speaker, I was invited to go along to sample some of these shows. The double bill featured here is the result of my second (and regretably final) outing to Voilà!.
.. and I must say I continue to be impressed.
One ticket sufficed for both shows of the evening. The first, La Voix Humaine, could be described as unconventional, whatever the language. The play deals with a woman speaking to her ex-lover on the phone after a breakup. It is a dialogue where the audience can only hear one side of the conversation, and as such, is a very powerful and emotionally punchy story. What makes it unconventional is that it is performed as a one-act opera, created jointly by writer Jean Cocteau and composer Francis Poulenc in the late 50s. The production requires not only a strong performance from the actor, but also, for her to be a soprano opera singer. Thankfully the talent of Elise Lefay is amply sufficient in both respects; her performance is heart-wrenching. Despite being constrained to sing all of her lines, which she does very beautifully I might add, she is still able to transmit the utter despair her character feels at being abandoned by her ex-lover. Pianist Gaspard Hunt must also be applauded for playing Poulenc’s music live during the show.
It is worth saying a word or two about the design of this production too. A simple set of bed, dresser and mirror brought the space to life, and for those rusty with their French, translated surtitles were projected onto the back wall.
The second show was called Folie à Deux
, presented by Two Tongue Theatre company
. This is an adaptation of Jean Genet’s famous play Les Bonnes,
about two housemaids who are also sisters, who brutally murder their employer after many years of fantasising about the idea together. This production does not stick to the script, rather it takes the idea and breathes new life into it. Two Tongue Theatre draw in elements about the infamous trial surrounding the affair, and add new aspects. For instance, they use bilingualism to illustrate power balance; the sisters speak in French, and their mistress speaks to them in English. This not only allows the play to become accessible to both English and French speakers, but also gives a real and surprising depth to the relationship between the sisters. The performances are brilliant and Sharlit Deyzac and Leonor Lemee have incredible chemistry, so much so that I would have sworn they were sisters in real life. Caron Pascoe, as the employer, is equally great, displaying a pompous and egocentric character. The whole thing is brought together with impeccable set and costumes, as well as some clever projections for the trial scenes.
All in all, I would say that this was an excellent night of theatre. The short, snappy pieces complemented each other well and displayed an impressive array of skill across both companies. Plus each of these plays were accessible to people who don’t speak French. The three plays I have seen during Voilà! have all been excellent, so I whole heartedly suggest any Francophones (or indeed non-Francophones) with a hankering for some French theatre make their way to The Cockpit before the 10th of November. Having had my fill for this year, I know I’m already looking forward to next year!
Please feel free to leave your comments in the section below!
Voilà! Runs at The Cockpit theatre until 10th November.