I fear that I am writing this in order to let you know what you have missed rather than to encourage you to go see the piece.
The format of Connecting Voices is that there are three works which run throughout the three weeks of the season and three further ones which are ‘Reflections’ on them which happen for one week only. This week it is Reflections on La Voix Humaine. It doesn’t mention the subject piece by name but deals with its theme of unrequited love through different mediums. Here they are choral, dramatic and solo vocal and sitar performances.
The work was set in the Courtyard Theatre which is one of the larger spaces in the Playhouse and the audience seating is normally on several levels. Because of the COVID-19 protocols, however, the upper tiers of the auditorium were punter-free zones and so able to be utilised by the performers.
The first item in the piece was a choral performance by four members of the Choir of Opera North; Soprano, Kathryn Stevens; Mezzo-soprano, Katie Walker; Tenor, Tim Ochala-Greenough and Bass, Ross McInroy. The theatre was in darkness and they were on the top seating level cutting eerie figures as they were socially distanced from one another and each had a spotlight trained on them. They also had small lights on the boards holding their music scores which added to the ethereal ambiance. Their first song was Duet For One Voice by Jean Cocteau, who wrote the play on which the opera La Voix Humaine was based, and was followed by Weep O Mine Eyes, a Madrigal by John Bennett from 1599.
The action then switched to the stage where The Actress, played by Amy J Payne who, as in the opera is not given a name, after returning home from work singing in a seedy club, awaits her lover, Emile, Henry Ward. She is still in love with him even though she knows that he is seeing someone else and, not only does he neglect her, he totally ignores her. If Mr Ward is paid by the word he will leave the theatre this evening in abject poverty as he says nothing throughout the two parts of the drama.
The Actress goes through all of her repertoire of tricks to get him to speak to her: shouting at him, accusing him of infidelity, pleading with him, threatening to leave him, but all to no avail. He spends the whole time reading, or pretending to read, his newspaper. Once again the unused seating portion of the theatre was utilised as a refuge to which he retires with his paper in order to escape the tirade.
The Actress intimates that she no longer wants him and vows to go but crumbles and confesses that she still loves Emile even after she receives a phone call from his lover asking to speak to him. He refuses even to speak to the lover, although it could be because he is asleep behind the broadsheet. Needless to say the piece ends in tears.
It is now the turn of Guest Musicians Keertan Kaur Rehal, Singer, and Jasdeep Singh Degun, Sitar Player, to perform. Mr Degun performed the World Premier of his piece Arya with the Orchestra of Opera North just before lockdown and is featured in the live stream of Switch ON: Live from Leeds last Wednesday which can still be seen on Opera North’s YouTube Channel.
They played two sets Saajanava kab aavogeh a traditional Thumri based in Raag Pahadi in the first, and Mosaic, a Netra composed by Keertan and Jasdeep in the second, which was completed by Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo, a geet based in Raag Yamaan Kalyan with text by Pakistani poet Fayyaz Hashmi. I am no expert in South Asian music so all of the above information was gleaned from the information sheet provided. I apologise unreservedly should there be any mistakes on my part. The translations of the songs showed that they were concerned with the same subject as everything else reminding us that one-way love is heartbreaking throughout the world as well as through various periods of history. Jasdeep’s playing was up to its its usual immaculate standard and Keertan’s voice was truly amazing. She is a woman of slight build but her voice is not only very strong but is of a register far lower than you would expect.
The piece ended with more from the choir, Belle qui teens ma vie, a Pavane by Thoinot Arbeau from 1589 the other performers remaining on stage in their various, socially distanced places. In the case of The Actress and Emile it seemed to be more of an anti-social distancing in the unused seats.
The Creative Team were Matthew Eberhardt, Director and Tigger Johnson, Lighting Designer. The Production Team comprised; Stage Managers Alison Best and Lucy Neale; Head of Sound, Martin Pickersgill; Deputy Head of Stage, Felix Beresford; Senior Lighting Technician, Joe Izzard; Deputy Head of Wardrobe, Kirsty Blades and Props Supervisor, James Thurston
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff at Leeds Playhouse for the hard work they put in, not only to make sure that we were all as safe as possible during our visit, but also for the smiles and quips which reminded us that this is still a place in which to enjoy ourselves. You are all amazing.
Sadly the run is now over but Reflections on Krapp’s Last Tape is being performed on 9th and 10th October and Reflections: Dead and Wake is the following Friday and Saturday. For full details and booking please go to
COVID-19 protocols are in place and followed rigorously including mandatory hand sanitising and a temperature check before entry.
Feature photograph is of Amy J Payne by Anthony Robling