Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Alma, A Human Voice is a one person show from Nina’s Drag Queens. A company founded in 2007 and hailing from Milan. Their company style blends songs, film extracts and lip syncing with live performance, all framed through the window of Drag. This performance focuses on Oskar Kokoschka, an Austrian painter and his relationship with his muse Alma Mahler and his decision to get a life sized doll made of her when she leaves him. This narrative is layered with versions of The Human Voice, Cocteau’s play.
Lip-syncing is an integral theme for this theatre company so much of the writing was from the pens of others. Lorenzo Piccolo is expressive and engaging as a performer. His portrayal of the nameless woman was comical without being overdone, especially given the overly dramatic nature the subject. Sometimes I was a little lost as to who was speaking. His lip-syncing was slightly off at times and an additional speaker at the back of the stage would have helped him.
We are at the Edinburgh Fringe, production values are always going to be compromised. The trick with the Fringe is to take that pressure and make of it a virtue, something beautiful. This piece unfortunately suffered a little under that pressure with parts of this production feeling too rough round the edges. The suitcase brought in at the start of the show was glaringly contemporary and it somehow made everything thas came out of it less magical. The show won me back with a beautifully layered sound design by Silvia Laureti and a lighting design by Andrea Violato which brought that magic back.
The set was a good use of the space, for example, the cream rug leading to thoughts of sumptuous dressing rooms from the 1920s, the chair with its Art Deco pattern and colours, the glasses lined up and sparkling under the lights. The space was expectant and exciting. The array of red lamps surrounding the space worked as booms, providing side light and giving it and Lorenzo’s body texture and depth.
The costumes should have been bolder and more opulent and the wigs less modern in their styling. We needed them to transport us and to change the performer into a woman before our eyes; that wasn’t quite achieved. The show contained plenty of Hitchcock-style tense and foreboding moments which were played alongside humour.
It’s a crazy (in a good way, unique story (I won’t spoil it for you) There were terrific sections from a nameless woman on the phone. My fellow audience members liked this show and they were a warm and generous room to perform to.
As I am sure you have guessed I was also frustrated by this show and at the little things, which to me weren’t quite there yet. A retro-suitcase, glittery dresses and better wigs would have helped finish this piece. There is much to be proud of in this show and it is good to see an interesting takes on Drag performance and what that means. They were creating needed more star quality, Alma was a muse to many artists during her life and that spark of creation didn’t not appear nearly enough. With a few tweaks and a more coherent costume design this could be as great show. As it stands it’s a Good Show.