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The Rise & Fall of Little Voice (Bolton)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is full of contradictions, as it mingles elements of classic fairy tale with stark social realism. Joyful wordplay is off-set by crude (but hilarious) jokes. At its core, however, is a group of people so desperate that they grasp at the faintest trace of hope. Oh, and it also features faithful recreations of some truly great torch songs.
Unlike Cinderella L.V (Katie Elin-Salt) does not want to go to the ball. She responds to her over-bearing and larger than life mother Mari (Sue Devaney) by isolating herself with the record collection of her late father. But LV’s ability to mimic the torch singers she adores brings her unwanted attention.  
Director Elizabeth Newman offers a world full of people at the end of their tether and hiding behind a shield self-delusion. Mary Horan’s gaudy costumes make clear that everyone is content to be mutton dressed as lamb. The mismatched furniture in Ciaran Bagnall’s grubby (but much too tidy) set shows a family living on the never-never. Newman is able to turn the Octagon into a nightclub for L.V’s debut and excels at bringing out the play's comedy elements - particularly in the interplay between Devaney and Sally Bankes.
Devaney delivers a stunning performance. The physical and comedic elements alone are remarkable. She does the splits and contorts herself into grotesque positions in an effort to be seductive. But, most importantly, she reveals the humanity in a character who could be repellent by showing the deep fear of loneliness and the horrid need that have twisted Mari so out of shape. 

Such a towering performance makes you forget that Mari is not the title character. Katie Elin-Salt is such a superb vocalist that she achieves the almost-impossible feat of convincing the audience LV really can sing like her heroines. She lacks, however, the inner strength of someone who is able to defy a powerful personality by constructing her own version of reality.
This is a heart-warming and hugely popular production of a modern classic  that shows it is possible for anyone to find their own way of coping with troubles if they have the determination to do so.
- Dave Cunningham

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