One advantage when a writer directs his
own play is that the subtleties, which may be almost concealed to
others, come vividly to life, and this is certainly the case with
Jim Cartwright’s The Fall and Rise of Little Voice.
LV, as the lead character is known, is a complex person and, in this
production, every facet of her is on display.
Her vulnerability after losing her
father, the comfort she finds in listening to his old record
collection and, as the play moves on, her new-found courage and hope.
The play itself starts well before the
advertised time with Duggie Brown as Mr Boo introducing some of the
acts that regularly appear at his Working Men’s Club. The country’s
only female George Formby impersonator and a
spoon-playing/tap-dancing act start off the proceedings and certainly
get the assembling crowd in the mood for a fun night. The raffle
tickets, that we are all given as we enter the auditorium, add an
extra dimension to the proceedings.
After the extremely dodgy wiring in the
house blows all the fuses (yet again), Mari’s latest boyfriend, the
club act promoter Ray Say, now played by Philip Andrew, hears LV
impersonating the divas and he sets his mind on making her a star,
whether she wants to be one or not. His manipulation of Mari is
portrayed very well and, when he finally snaps in Act Two, he reveals
this and then delivers the parting blow with tons of malice.
Ray Quinn is very believable as the
shy and nervous telephone engineer Billy. From the moment that he
meets LV, his awkward and embarrassed mannerisms emphasise the
blossoming romance between them and, by displaying just enough of his
scouse charm, it’s very easy to see why she would fall for him. The
set is cleverly designed and, at the same time as appearing to be a
run-down terraced house, it morphs into the working men’s club
simply by using some very clever lighting effects behind transparent
The highlight of the piece, as it was
with the film version starring Jane Horrocks, is the moment when LV
decides that, for one night only, she will take to the stage as all
of the women that she admires so much. Her impersonations of the
stars are spot-on and her wonderfully strong voice soars to
incredible heights as she delivers a 15-minute barrage of hits by all
the above-mentioned stars and which also features Lulu, Tina
Turner and Cilla Black.
The final dramatic scenes are all
played well and the technical crew deserve a special mention for
creating some very authentic pyrotechnic, fire and smoke effects
which make the demise of the terraced house very believable. This
piece is gritty, heart-warming, funny, entertaining and sad in almost
equal doses and, with Robinson’s vocal prowess to top it all off,
offers a superb night of theatre.