THEATRE REVIEW: The Human Voice starring Ruth Wilson at the Harold Pinter Theatre

By Neil Durham


WHEN?: Saturday 20 March (matinee), runs to 9 April 2022 RUNTIME: 70 minutes without interval

Wilson is on the phone and onstage in a rectangular box behind see-through glass in her 1st West End role since her Hedda Gabler at the National was Olivier Award-nominated in 2017.

  • Read on for reasons including how there are only 31 performances in this short run

The Golden Globe and 2-time Olivier Award winner is playing She in a 70-minute monologue written by Jean Cocteau and 1st performed in Paris in 1930.

This is a modern-day version signalled because She is dressed down in a sweatshirt featuring we think Tweety Bird from Warner Bros Looney Toons and Merrie Melodies series of animated cartoons.

It’s an odd reference and the problems with the Parisian phone system of the 30s which allow misdiallers to occasionally occupy the wrong line also strike a strange note.

She is on the phone to her lover who is breaking up with her and She appears grateful initially to have been given the opportunity for 1 final call, which keeps being interrupted or disconnected, to establish the ground rules of the separation.

The use of contemporary music like Beyonce’s emblematic Single Ladies at the beginning of the piece is occasionally hilarious but the choices become bleaker as the story unravels.

The levity of the call eventually darkens and the dawning that the break up is far from what She wants becomes painfully clearer.

We empathise with her as she caresses the lost shoes of her lover unseen by him and laugh with her conspiratorially when she lies to him that they are still missing.

We share her pain as she explains that the couple’s dog pines after her missing lover and seems to blame She for his disappearance and She breaks our heart when she scrawls in exasperation ‘Come Home’ on a piece of paper and sticks it to the glass again unseen by her love.

The sound needs to be pitch perfect for this and it is as She pulls back the window at 1 point and looks out from the ledge of her window and we can hear as She can the hubbub of street noise from traffic and life from far down below her.

The staging is very reminiscent of director Ivo van Hove’s (All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre) other work and the box could even be viewed as a bare cell by which we view She through tinted glass without her knowledge.

This is the 1st time we’ve seen Wilson (BBC1’s His Dark Materials) on a stage and she most recently was nominated for a Best Actress Tony for her Broadway role in King Lear in 2019 opposite Glenda Jackson.

What so impresses about Wilson is that she not only convinces holding an audience for a 70-minute monologue but also that the phone conversation she is having is always believable although we only ever hear 1 side of it.

She’s so good at seemingly effortlessly whipping up the emotional gears of her performance within a split second so suddenly flooding her eyes with shocking and immediate tears.

It’s some of the most difficult yet convincing acting we’ve seen on a stage for a long time and we’re glad that we’ve finally taken our chance to see Wilson in the West End.

The Human Voice will not be heard and appreciated by everyone but do listen if you have a chance, and quickly, because this run is a mere 31 performances long.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy ATG Tickets
  • Have you heard any of these songs or seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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