The Human Voice

Six of Australia’s most exciting young playwrights join forces in a new play where every word of dialogue is spoken over the phone!

Following successes in their home cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Ang Collins (Blueberry Play), Thomas De Angelis (Chamber Pot Opera), Fiona Spitzkowsky (Unicorn D*ck), Georgia Symons (Who Will Win?), Jean Tong (Hungry Ghosts) and Lewis Treston (Reagan Kelly), six of Australia’s leading young playwrights, have come together to create The Human Voice for Meat Market Stables. These exciting young playwrights have collaborated on a sextuple bill (six short plays) all of which take place over the phone, exploring the ways this now ubiquitous technology influences our ability to communicate, converse and connect.

The Human Voice showcases humanity’s strangest phone-based quirks: connection to strangers when a wrong number is dialed, the awkwardness of phone-sex, and the imperfect possibilities of true connection via the phone. From the ritual of the family phone call to the uncertain menace of surveillance and privacy, The Human Voice is a unique theatrical collaboration that will change the way you think about your phone.

Directed by Benjamin Sheen (Disparate Scenes for Millennial Dreams) and presented by Periscope Productions, The Human Voice also features the experimental choir Choral Edge, who will perform original music composed by the Father/Daughter team of David and Jess Keeffe, and with musical direction and additional composition from Juliana Kay. The idea for the show came from Sheen’s fascination with a 1930 play by Jacques Cocteau, also called The Human Voice:

The original was such a simple concept: one woman speaking on the phone. But the real drama for me was how it revealed a new sort of language. We connect with people differently on the phone and it’s such an intimate space.

Ang Collins has written a play about the attempt to rekindle an old relationship via a totally unexpected phone call.

The idea came to me when I was on the train back to my hometown of Newcastle. These two middle-aged characters emerged in my mind and I began to think about the phone’s potential to connect people so intimately and so immediately. How was it that two people, after such a long time apart, felt more comfortable reconnecting over the phone than they would meeting face to face?

Playwright Thomas De Angelis has written about a young couple separated by distance hoping to use phone sex to save their ailing relationship.

I was interested in what you can get away with via a phone call because you don’t have access to body language or eye contact, and therefore it can be much easier to lie. There was obviously comic potential in a play about phone sex, but I wanted to create a situation where phone sex is apparently essential but where neither character really wants to do it, they just think it’s what the other person wants.

Fiona Spitzkowsky’s play sees the humble tin-can-phone making a comeback as a means of covert communication.

I find it fascinating that a simple piece of string can capture the nuance of our voices. When I thought about it, I was a bit scared of how little I know about how phones actually work. I wanted to use the tin-can-phone as a way of examining surveillance today, but also to reflect that little sense of fear of not knowing, and how that ignorance can be manipulated.

The focus for Georgia Symons was the ritual of the weekly phone call between a daughter and her parents. Spread across sixty years, the play examines the changing dynamic between parent and child.

The story came from my own experience living away from my parents. I wanted to create a piece in which the quotidian rhythms of the phone call take on a sort of transcendent quality, especially when they are examined over the course of a lifetime.

Jean Tong’s play considers the phone call’s emotional costs when used for providing care and support.

I was thinking a lot about Lifeline and how one can form an incredibly strong relationship with a completely unseen person. My play is about a character who frequently provides support to her friend over the phone, and over time we see the line between their friendship and support relationship blurred and become increasingly challenging to navigate.

Lewis Treston’s play is about the fictional hotline, “1800-RealTalk”, which allows callers to role-play a difficult conversation with a trained operator before facing the conversation in real life.

I was interested in the idea of authentic conversation and how that works in the context of a phone call. I’ve written two characters that use language very differently and are forced to follow the rigid framework of conversation but end up just butting heads.

Opening Thursday 4 March at Meat Market Stables, The Human Voice is an extraordinary collaboration between some of Australian theatre’s most exciting young creatives.


THE HUMAN VOICE

Presented by: Periscope Productions
Written by: Ang Collins, Thomas De Angelis, Fiona Spitzkowsky, Georgia Symons, Jean Tong, Lewis Treston
Director: Benjamin Sheen
Musical Direction: Juliana Kay
Sound Design and Composition: Jess Keeffe and David Keeffe

Cast: Marissa Bennett, Ross Dwyer, Alex Hines, Amarachi Okorom, Mason Phoumirath, Felicity Steel, Senuri Wagaarachchi, Chris Wallace

 

Venue: Meat Market Stables, 2 Wreckyn St, North Melbourne
Season: 4 – 13 March 2021 (AUSLAN interpreted on 9 March)
Times: All performances 7:30pm, except for Sunday 7 March 6:00pm
Duration: 90 minutes (no interval)
Price: $30.00
Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/BOCAY

 

This project is supported by City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program. Additional support from the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation and the Robert Salzer Foundation

Peter J Snee

Peter is a British born creative, working in the live entertainment industry. He holds an honours degree in Performing Arts and has over 12 years combined work experience in producing, directing and managing artistic programs & events. Peter has traversed the UK, Europe and Australia pursuing his interest in theatre. He is inspired by great stories and passionately driven by pursuing opportunities to tell them.

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