The Human Voice review: A play that reflects the loneliness of a betrayed woman


After a five-year relationship, a woman is being told by her lover on the telephone that he is leaving her to marry someone else; hers is the only voice heard. A notoriously difficult piece to stage effectively, it has been attempted in the past by Ingrid Bergman, Simone Signoret, Liv Ullman and Diana Quick.

Imprisoned behind a glass screen that turns out to be the window of her high rise apartment, Wilson moves through various stages of hope, acceptance, regret, anger and anguish with subtle, propulsive agency.

Van Hove’s updating of the context (cars and sirens and a remote control for her sound system) seems oddly juxtaposed with the party line of her telephone in spite of the fact that party lines were still in use into the early 1990s.

Starting in a cartoon sweatshirt and an overlarge jumper she hides her true feelings by attempting to control her emotions and keep her rising panic at bay.

At times her voice echoes to indicate her fracturing mental state, furthering the idea that there may be no one at the end of the line. 

In her final moments, she swaps her casual clothes for a bright blue party dress to bring an artificial gaiety to her condition of terminal despair.

As a portrait of loneliness, it is devastating and if the wounded vulnerability and psychological disintegration of a betrayed woman may seem outmoded to some it stands up as a dramatic experiment.

I wish van Hove had not included a vomiting scene, though.

People who act in glass boxes shouldn’t throw up.

The Human Voice at Harold Pinter Theatre until April 9 Tickets: 03330 096 690


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