The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (2010)


Reviewed by Tony Flook

Jim Cartwright’s play is a skilful blend of comedy and pathos. Little Voice, a reclusive young woman, lives only through the collection of vinyl records left to her by her late father. She has retreated from her brash, self-centred mother, Mari, who is constantly on the prowl for men. Ray, Mari’s latest pick up, a small time theatrical agent, hears Little Voice sing and wants to promote her in order to boost his own career.

Helen Andrews’ riveting performance showed total understanding of the smutty, boozy Mari’s personality, down to her appalling taste in clothes and hair that looked the same whether she was on the pull or had just got out of bed. She was as convincing in her coarseness as she was pathetic when her world finally fell apart

Jennie Moorhouse’s Little Voice was as restrained as her mother was loud. It was a sensitive interpretation of someone who has withdrawn into herself. The actress proved to be a fine singer, as well as a compelling actress, as she imitated Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and her other heroines.

Bob Hamilton showed Ray as a chancer, happy to take advantage of Mari but quickly seeing that his future would be best served by cultivating Little Voice. The scene in which he gently coaxed her to perform was particularly thoughtfully handled.

It would have been easy to overplay Sadie but, although Alison Green interpreted her as a slovenly, lank haired woman, she won sympathy as Mari’s long suffering and only true friend.

Little Voice finds comfort with telephone installer Billy. James Bailey caught his gentle, caring nature and his passion for creating lighting effects in an allotment shed.

Ollie Reeves, Mr Boo the club owner, came into his own when he took the mike to warm up the audience and to introduce Little Voice, his new star.

Dialogue between all the characters was sharp throughout and delivered with conviction.

Steve Egginton’s set design managed to cram the family home effectively onto the stage. The living areas were as unkempt as we would expect in Mari’s house and Little Voice’s bedroom a haven of relative normality. The master stroke was the rapid transformation of the downstairs room into a burnt out shell, following a fire.

This was Simon Openshaw’s first venture into direction. He could not have made a more impressive debut than with this five star production.