Our 12 years are up, and we didn’t save the world. The climate crisis was never halted, and the world has been thrown into post-apocalypse where very few humans still survive. Alex (Molly Williams) and Bea (Georgina Savage) have been alone for an indeterminable length of time when they finally pick up each other’s voices on their radio transmitters. Harrowing, soul-rending and ever more poignant, The Voices We Hear looks at human relationships in the depths of destruction, and what we mean to each other when we have so little left.
The very nature of The Greenhouse makes it a challenging and limiting space: the theatre in the round style combined with the lack of a traditional stage set-up or lighting force any performance there to be creative with its staging. Voices is certainly designed with such a space in mind. Befitting of a show set in a post-apocalyptic world, The Voices We Hear is an evening show, which of course means that the entire performance takes place in natural darkness. A single dim lamp hangs from the ceiling, which lights up the actors’ faces just enough for us to connect with them while still unsettling us with the creepy apocalypse vibe.
With visuals largely obscured, Voices depends on aural effects to a much greater extent than another theatre. Being unable to see encourages the audience focus on the words of the beautifully crafted script; in a play that centres on a conversation across radios, it is the poignancy of this script that is truly important. Furthermore, Williams’ superb performance as the slowly dying Alex is particularly emotional, her convincing coughing and spluttering even more disturbing when it echoes in the darkness.
However, more could have been done with sound overall, and there are some missed opportunities. Sound effects are used only once, in the form of loud bangs imitating a sudden earthquake. Music plays an important role in Bea and Alex’s connection, and yet their singing to each other across the radio is played only for laughs when even a sad and simple harmony could have replaced a thousand words to set the scene.
In all, The Voices We Hear tells a tragic tale, with a little bit of light relief in the face of impending doom that, while dramatic, hits a little close to home. The imaginative use of the nighttime to focus the audience’s attention is a stroke of ingenuity, although there are times where honing in on audio effects could have elevated the production into something even greater.
The Voices We Hear is on at Pleasance Pop-Up: Dynamic Earth – The Greenhouse BoxedIn Theatre
At 21:15 until 26th August (excluding 20th)
Book tickets here
Image: Lara Tillotson