Alma, a Human Voice

Alma: A Human Voice is a one-person performance focused on portraying and contrasting two characters from the early 1900s. One of these is painter Oskar Kokoschka, who famously made a life-size doll of his former lover, and muse, Alma Mahler; the other is the main character in Cocteau’s Opera, La Voix Humaine, a heart-broken woman. Sound complicated? It is.

Piccolo's comedic timing and demeanour made the performance enjoyable to watch, even when the script and direction of the performance were completely lost.

We begin with a setting of the scene from La Voix Humaine: a room, a phone, an outfit and an atmosphere of desperation. Our performer in this one-person play, Lorenzo Piccolo of Nina’s Drag Queens, builds the scene perfectly for us, explaining each detail, musing on every element of this scene. It feels somewhat like we’re deconstructing the opera in a class, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. However, he then catapults us through various parts of two different stories: one fictional, one real, flitting between telling the story and acting out the scenes. From this point early on, this combination of storytelling and live performance becomes messy and confusing. With two separate stories, two timelines, and too many characters, there is simply too much for one performer.

Throughout the performance we revisit Mahler’s past, Kokoschka’s life and explore and unravel various scenes from La Voix Humaine. This is done through a variety of elements including recorded extracts of La Voix Humaine, lip-syncing, live performance and dancing. It’s an ambitious piece of work, and it is clear that a lot of effort and meticulous research went into the piece. However, the concept and complexity of the stories being told were just too much for a one-person performance to handle.

Despite the confusion of the performance, Piccolo remains a likeable and charismatic performer. His passion and warmth allowed the characters he was playing to really shine. Piccolo's comedic timing and demeanour made the performance enjoyable to watch, even when the script and direction of the performance were completely lost.

The individual character performances and narratives being told were complex, interesting, beautiful and tragic in themselves, but a constant skipping between the two meant that the stories ultimately got lost in translation.

Reviews by Sarah Virgo

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The Blurb

There are two kinds of madness in this one-person drag play: the one experienced by Oskar Kokoschka, who turned his lover Alma Mahler into a life size doll; the other belonging to the nameless woman on the phone in Cocteau's The Human Voice. Alma Mahler is a free soul, a muse, the other is a mediocre victim: between them, a male actor trying to reach an elusive feminine essence. Alma puts love and creativity centre stage, along with the frustration and exaltation they entail. Italian Nina's Drag Queens spearhead drag queen philosophy into the modern age.