Set in a working-class home in Scarborough The Rise and Fall of Little Voice tells the story of a painfully shy girl with a gift for impersonating the great Divas of yesteryear who lives with her overbearing, man-mad mother.
Having been adapted for the big screen, the play is in danger of being overshadowed by its filmed counterpart, but this new revival is able to just about stand-alone thanks to some fantastic performances.
Rather than play Ray Say as a shark, Joe McGann portrays him as an ordinary wheeler-dealer, which means his betrayalof LV’S mother lacks bite and his manipulation of Little Voice seems genuine, rather than sinister. It’s an interesting interpretation and ultimately very human.
Ray Quinn’s understated Billy is like a knight in boiler suit armour and the blossoming romance between him and LV is lovely to watch.
Given roughly 15 lines, Sally Plumb’s Sadie is great fun to watch and has the audience in stiches, but is equally able to draws empathy beautifully. Indeed, it is a perfect supporting role performance. But really The Rise & Fall of Little Voice is a two woman show with the rest of the characters just coming along for the ride.
As Little Voice, Jess Robinson absolutely dazzles, with her Diva medley drawing rapturous applause. When she takes to the stage in an explosion of energy and sequins she is note and intonation perfect which starkly contrasts the meek and painfully shy girl we saw in the first act.
Ultimately it falls to Beverley Callard as Mari to drive the play forward, but it feels as though she’s stuck in third gear. She certainly looks the part, thanks to Morgan Large’s penchant for leopard print and gold spandex, but she falls short of being a truly tragic character. Mari’s alcoholism is played for cheap laughs and her rage at the world that could have been a towering inferno, flickers, rather than burns.
It seems that Jim Cartwright’s direction brings out some tender and touching moments between the quieter characters, but feels a little loose when it comes to the powerhouses. Morgan Large’s set is visually quite bland, with a lack of detail that would have made it more believable, but the special effects should be commended for making the audience jump more than once.
The show is entertaining and it’s easy to get swept up in the story, but it lacks the sparkle needed to make it amazing.