Theatre ‘Light’ Returns To Leeds Playhouse
Niall Buggy in Krapp's Last Tape. Photo credit Anthony Robling
It was with a spring in my step that I made my way to Leeds Playhouse last night for the first time in six months and silently wished my hosts a welcome return.
Frighteningly well organised with audiences of just 40 or so people, Leeds Playhouse and Opera North have co-produced CONNECTING VOICES: six new and existing pieces of live performance staged safely in four areas of the Playhouse over three weekends in October, fusing classic and contemporary theatre on themes of isolation and connection, resilience and reflection.
Currently theatre faces a dichotomy: entertain or simply reflect what’s happening in society and run the risk of serving too much ‘reality’ at a time when people need their spirits lifting?
So, with that in mind, I entered the theatre not entirely sure what to expect, certainly after York Theatre Royal’s recent offering about death, domestic abuse and Covid. But, overall, I was pleasantly surprised.
Did you ‘enjoy’ the show? was the question upon my return home. That would be the wrong word, however, I did enjoy the experience of three beautifully crafted pieces, each lasting around 40 minutes.
La Voix Humane
Gillene Butterfield as Elle in La voix humaine. Photo credit Anthony Robling
Poulenc waited a long time before setting Cocteau’s original drama to music and, this time, it was Opera North soprano Gillene Butterfield who carried the torch originally held high by Denise Duval, the woman for whom Poulenc penned his work, choosing to give a polite snub to Greek-American soprano Maria Callas.
Directed by Sameena Hussain, Butterfield brings to life this harrowing portrayal of a relationship’s breakdown and works so very hard to hold her audience for 40 minutes and she does so brilliantly, clearly and effectively leaving you emotionally troubled inside because everyone watching knows one thing: ‘we’ve all been there.’
Reflections On La Voix Humane
A woman lingers in a hotel room, waiting for her lover to return to her. When he arrives long after dusk, he’s completely silent. In the silence she reflects on her relationship, and the true cost of love.
Jasdeep Singh Degun in Reflections on La voix humaine. Photo credit Anthony Robling
It was a modern take on Francis Poulenc’s work only this time there was a singing quartet from Opera North, and a brilliant Indian classical performance by vocalist Keertan Kaur and award-winning sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun
Amy J Payne in Reflections on La voix humaine. Photo credit Anthony Robling
Oh how I wished I could have understood her words which, I presume, were in Hindi? It would have been nice to have included that Opera North touch of a ticker tape translation somewhere on the stage.
Nevertheless, it was an emotionally charged production that left little to the imagination, and Amy J. Payne as the main protagonist was beautifully contrasting in her delivery: monologues are eternally difficult, requiring of light, shade and unwavering concentration on the actor’s part: she delivered.
Krapp’s Last Tape
Finally I had the good fortune to witness Niall Buggy in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape in which a 69 year old man listens to the voice of his 39 year old self, again reflecting on his loves, failures and losses.
It was a continuing theme and 10 out of 10 to Buggy who looked as if he had just walked in from the street and was oblivious to the fact that he had 40 masked voyeurs watching his every move: he never faltered. Brilliant!
This was a great evening, well-organised and ‘sold out’, albeit to a comparative handful of theatre goers.
However, from small acorns great trees grow. So, welcome back Leeds Playhouse and power to your elbow. You did a great job and we’re as glad to have you back as you made all of us feel welcome.