Writer: Jim Cartwright
Director: Jim Cartwright
Reviewer: Malcolm Wallace
Premiering in 1992 at the Royal National Theatre in a production that placed Jane Horrocks firmly on the road to stardom, Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the current extensive UK tour directed by the playwright himself.
The story concerns LV, a painfully shy girl with a talent for mimicking famous divas and her over bearing, monstrous mother Mari Hoff. When Mari starts dating a new man, entertainments promoter Ray Say, Mari sees a chance of a better life. When Ray Say hears LV sing, pound signs ring and he manipulates LV into singing at the local club where she proves a huge hit. But can their dreams really come true or will fate deal its cruel blow and shatter the dream?
Played out on a static but detailed set by Morgan Large, which is lit very well indeed by Jason Taylor, Cartwright directs his own work with competence and pace, although I feel the production team could have made a larger differentiation between the interior of the house and interior of the club. That said I do feel this is a production that would sit much more comfortably in a smaller theatre, the Opera House being somewhat too vast for its intimacy.
Top billing is given to Beverley Callard playing Mari, a complex character that Callard plays with striking similarities to her famous rôle of Liz McDonald in Coronation Street. This is not necessarily to the detriment of the production but Callard does appear to struggle through the more dramatic scenes and does not capture the venomous disappointment and deeply rooted jealous resentment she holds towards her daughter. However, at comedy she excels and she shares some truly hilarious comedic moments with fat friend Sadie, a scene stealing performance from Sally Plumb.
Duggie Brown works hard in the underwritten rôle of Mr Boo, owner of the club and he engages very well with the audience at the start of each act, ably assisted by members of the ensemble who also serve as understudies for the principal cast. Simon Thorp puts in a very good performance as Ray Say, a man doomed to failure from the start.
As LV Jess Robinson shares genuine chemistry with Ray Quinn’s hugely understated and beautifully judged Billy, an unexpectedly engaging performance that, for this reviewer at least, almost steals the show. However, as it should be, this show belongs to Robinson. She captures the delicacy of LV perfectly and displays exceptional vocal talents during act two. Her ability to switch from Bassey to Garland to Piaf to Streisand and so on instantaneously is a joy to behold, but it’s her final song singing as herself when she truly gets to shine, bringing the house down with her rendition of ‘Papa, Can You Hear Me’ from the Barbra Streisand film Yentl.
Runs until Saturday 4th May 2013