Jim Cartwright's play has won critical acclaim, numerous awards and was also turned into a successful film starring Jane Horrocks and Ewan McGregor. With the film so fresh in my mind, I was worried that this latest production would pale into insignificance. Thankfully I was proved wrong.
L.V (Emma Lowndes) is a quiet, unassuming young girl. Alone in her room, she spends her time listening to the sounds of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and a record box full of other divas. These strong but troubled women enable her to escape into their world and cling to memories of her late beloved father.
Her mother, Mari (Denise Welch) neglects her and spends every waking day fawning over small time agent Ray Say (David Hounslow). Always out for a quick buck Ray realises that L.V can be exploited as her bedroom impersonations of her idols are spot on. Soon, the local club is full of punters waiting to hear L.V's big voice.
Cartwright's wonderful writing is a gift for any actor. Welch's Mari is not a monster. The actress brings an air of sympathy to the role and she has superb comic timing. At the same time also portraying the character's loneliness underneath her loud facade.
Lowndes has the voice of an angel. She also displays awkwardness and inner turmoil perfectly. She really lets go during the final scenes when she confronts her mother. Hers is a beautifully understated performance. Andrew Sheridan is also excellent as Billy, L.V's one saviour and love interest. His scenes with Lowndes are delightful.
David Hounslow's Ray Say is sleazy and money-grabbing but like Mari also sad and quite needy. Lorraine Cheshire steals many scenes with her comic portrayal of Mari's selfless friend, Sadie.
Sarah Frankcom's direction is very assured. She respects Cartwight's material and it shows. She never allows the play to become overly dramatic or sentimental, always holding back allowing the audience to make the decision whether to laugh or to cry.
This moving play is complimented by Liz Ashcroft's circular shaped set complete with a record label in the middle of the floor which adds poignancy to an already pitch perfect production. Yes, this Little Voice is definitely worth shouting about.
- Glenn Meads