It is much to the credit of singer Claire Booth that she had her audience totally in her grip in this remarkable performance of Poulenc’s almost unbearable work as she competed with the stunning views of the Bristol Channel from what is behind the facade a conventional modern apartment block.
We have been invited to a party by L and when we arrive at the back of the apartment where she lives, and are taken up to the large all-in-one pretty minimalist kitchen-living space full of light overlooking the sea while the gloomy bedroom we can peek into looks straight into a bleak wall. It is all very symbolic of her tragic, dark, doomed life.
She hands out canapes and drinks to her guests, clearly flustered and uncomfortable, as she waits for a phone call (on her mobile) and is interrupted by others pestering her instead of the one voice she wants to hear. When the call she wants does come through she moves around the apartment, now rather awkward to get around as she has to firmly move us out of the way of the cupboards and drawers, even more awkwardly climbing out of windows to get on to the balcony that runs along the front of the apartment block and in another window.
She tells the man who we realise has abandoned her that she has been out with her friend Martha (maybe to the eaterie that the apartment is on top of) but as the conversation continues – we of course only hear one half of it – we realise this is all a front.
There are lost and regained connections, blamed here on poor mobile signal, the singer physically starts to fall apart, shedding clothes and popping pills and slugging back gin. It all works wonderfully well for Jean Cocteau’s phone-monologue and we are shell shocked as she lies on the floor and we are gently asked to leave. Outside in that strange space between the stark back of the apartments and the monolith wall we wonder are we going back in or are we now to depart. It is indeed the end and Clair Booth appears to our well-deserved rapturous applause.
It was also interesting how different guests/audience members reacted. My partner has an audience participation phobia so stayed well out of the way, others looked distinctly uncomfortable when approached during the actual sung performance to perhaps helps her climb down from a kitchen unit, hold her phone earphones, even hold her hand and walk with her across in intense moments (I was by chance in the right/wrong place for that).
Christopher Glynn’s playing of the Poulenc score is played via a laptop and the singer works in wonderful harmony with the music, her expressive voice, the colours and shading of the words taking our breath away as she surfs from party host to remarkable singer actress.