It’s the start of the new year, and one of the first performances of 2013 was Voices, a production by producer-director-choreographer Jayanthi Siva-Lecolley and writer-poet Michael Corbidge, that ran at the Drama Centre Black Box on the 1st and 2nd of February.
Experimental and multi-disciplinary, encompassing Indian classical singing, modern dance, and English and French dialogue, Voices aimed to be an exploration of identity and realization in response to the concept of voice – be it the silent voice, voices in our head, overheard voices etc.
Voices was unfortunately a mixed bag of hits and misses, with more misses than hits. It boasted of top talents without a doubt – Bhagya Murthy’s vocals were haunting and melodious, as was Sabrina Zuber’s clear and powerful soprano operatic voice, while Pavan J. Singh delivered his dialogue with much emotion and vigour – especially in the last scene where he handled a monologue superbly by injecting the right tone, structure and pathos into the piece. Hayley Gerrard, who provided much of the piece’s modern dance, was graceful and technically splendid in her movements. Sharon Frese and Quentin Bernard also held themselves ably and performed to the mark.
However, whilst all these artists are extremely skilled in their own right, coming together in Voices they didn’t integrate enough for the audience to ignore the jarring disparity that some of the collaborations brought. For example, while Murthy’s Carnatic vocals complimented Gerrard’s dance steps very well and both artists were delightful to watch together, the other collaborations were more messy and didn’t fit together at all, such as teaming Zuber’s singing with the other actors’ gestures and words. In short, many of the segments didn’t feel unified or complementary.
It also didn’t help that Voices did not provide enough structure for the audience to create the story in their minds. Even if a performance is wholly experimental, there still has to be some sort of skeletal structure of story presented to the audience so they are not merely guessing randomly about the plot.
Therein lay a major fault of Voices – its lack of artistic integration and the absence of a basic story structure.
Also, it was very strange that Bernard had all of his dialogue in French with absolutely no surtitles for the audience. If this was done for effect, to make us feel unattached or isolated from a person through his strange tongue – then it went on for too long. A few sentences in French would’ve sufficed for this effect to anchor in us, but Bernard went on for lengthy periods in French, and at one point, even had a monologue entirely in French as well, much to the chagrin of the non-French-speaking in the audience.
However, Singh’s monologue at the very end proved the highlight as he explored the essence of what a “voice” is. Singh went through a litany of descriptions and definitions that were fascinating and true. If only Siva-Lecolley and Corbidge had focused on making Voices using one artistic medium, instead of taking on the huge task of incorporating varied art forms, Voices could’ve been a powerful play. Word!