The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a 1992 play by Jim Cartwright, most famously known for its film version which followed in 1998 starring Jane Horrocks.
It’s a big day in the life of alcoholic, good-time-girl, Mari Hoff. She’s getting a phone line installed at home and can’t wait to be connected with the outside world. She is expecting a very important phone call from a man she has been spending time with – Ray Say – a big-shot music talent agent (in his own head at least). Next door neighbour Sadie follows Mari around like a lost puppy, taking her vitriol in her stride, feeling worthless of better treatment.
Upstairs LV exists quietly in her own world. Sitting in her bedroom, playing her late father’s old record collection and mimicking the voices that she hears. Her mother doesn’t understand her, nor does she particularly care to.
When Marti returns home from the pub, Ray hears LV singing upstairs in her room whilst the pair are rolling around on the sofa. Enthralled by his discovery of a girl who can perfectly impersonate the voices of musical divas, he makes it his mission to get this girl on stage, whether she likes it or not. But this quiet girl can only be pushed so far.
The set design for this production is beautiful. A perfect little house that looks like it has had the front ripped off by a giant to have a look inside.
American Musical theatre performer and impressionist Christina Bianco was born to play the role of LV and she is given the opportunity to include many of her favourite impressions in this show – from Shirley Bassey to Julie Andrews and even a little Cilla Black. With a role like this, where the character is almost non-verbal for most of the show, the actor needs to be able to display emotions without words and Christina’s eyes tell the story perfectly.
Shobna Gulati is perfectly awful as the horridly self-obsessed mother Mari. It was wonderful to see her in such a different role from her recent stand-out performance as Ray in the stage show and film version of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Fiona Mulvaney (Sadie) also has very little dialogue in the show but has brilliant comic timing and a huge stage presence. Akshay Gulati is beautifully sweet in his portrayal of Billy and Ian Kelsey is suitably smarmy and charming as Ray Say. William Ilkley, as nightclub owner Mr Boo, perfectly embodies someone who would have run a working mans club in that era.
The only downside to this production is that the majority of it (including the whole of the first act) uses no microphones. This relies on the actors to project but can be hard to hear depending on where you are sitting in the auditorium. It does make sense that it is the calm before the storm in the story but really does affect the enjoyment of the piece, straining to hear what is being said.
It may be called The Rise and Fall of Little Voice but many of the other characters have their own traumatic downfalls as well. The play is beautifully written and each character has depth. Yes, the thirty year old play is dated but it is a representation of a time in society which we shouldn’t forget.
Reviewed by West End Wilma