Jim Cartwright’s 1992 play Little Voice is famously known for the 1998 film adaption starring Jane Horrocks, Ewan McGregor and Michael Caine. It tells the story of the mouthy northerner, Mari Hoff, who lives in a derelict home and survives off of a diet of alcohol and sex. Her daughter LV (Little Voice) is a recluse, rarely leaving her bedroom and spending her days playing her late fathers records that were left to her. When Mari Hoff brings her latest squeeze Ray home for the night, he hears LV singing and (as a ‘talent scout’) is immediately more interested in who is upstairs, than in Mari herself. Deciding that LV could be a star performer at the local club, they force LV to perform in honour of her late father but will this sudden burst of confidence finally give her the strength she needs to stand up to her neglectful mother once and for all or will she squirrel back to her bedroom for the rest of her days?
Charlotte Gorton is hilarious as Mari Hoff and steals the show in every sense possible. Pairing up with her comedy partner Mandy Dassa (Sadie) they perfectly compliment each other in comedy scenes with Charlotte being the bellowing voice and Mandy providing the more visual comedy. Together they are a match made in heaven. Ken Christiansen is great as boyfriend/talent scout Ray Say, oozing charisma and is believably excited at the talent he has found in LV. James Peake as club owner Mr Boo is exactly the type of compare you would expect to find in a northern working mans club with his cheap jokes and sweaty brow. Glenn Adamson is adorable as the shy and quiet Billy, who falls for LV (although his character does border on creepy at times, climbing up telegraph poles and looking at LV through her bedroom window!) Carly Thoms takes on the challenge of the multi-voiced LV and gives great renditions of well known divas Shirley Bassey and Judy Garland. It’s not an easy role to play but Carly takes the challenge fully on board and pulls it off.
Set design by Libby Todd is wonderfully simple but effective. A dank, dark living room with mouldy cornflakes and scraps of breadcrumbs everywhere. It is clear to see that these people are living in poverty and any money that might come in is spent on Mari’s garish fashion choices rather than food and upkeep on the house. Brilliantly directed, in the round, by Alastair Knights. He ensures that when part of the show are happening slightly out of view of some audience members, there is something equally exciting happening in their view to keep them amused.
Little Voice is the final production at the Union Theatre’s current home in Southwark, before it moves into its brand new space directly opposite. Without doubt it is the best work I’ve have seen there over the years and demonstrates this is by no means the end of the Union Theatre. This is just the beginning.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE plays at the Union Theatre until 25 June 2016