Part musical, part kitchen sink drama and part comedy The Rise and Fall of Little Voice tells the tale of a young woman known to all as LV who seeks escape from her somewhat unstable mother through her dead dad’s record collection. Alone in her room she learns to mimic some of the stars she’s listening to and when one her mum’s boyfriends, who just so happens to be a local talent agent (handy that eh?), overhears her singing he spots her potential...and his own way to the big time.
If you’ve seen the film version starring Jane Horrocks (the play it was based on was originally written for her too) you’ll know how things work out, you’ll also know that the lead role is one heck of a challenge for an actress.
Happily, with a decade’s experience under her belt, this production’s Little Voice, Nancy Sullivan, has both the skills and experience (I’m guessing this is a killer on the old vocal chords) to pull it off remarkably well. Her Piaf was particularly strong (you’ve got to love a bit of Piaf) and the contrast between the different voices coupled with the speed at which she switched from one to the other was pretty dazzling.
The rest of the cast is every bit as strong. Despite having few lines Joanna Brooks got most of the laughs as Sadie, trust me you’ll never listen to the Jackson 5 in the same way again.
Gloriously OTT Vicky Entwistle dominates the whole thing, swigging and swearing her way through the entire performance, just as her character Mari (LV’s mum) rules her daughter’s life, Chris Gascoyne is delightfully greasy as her boyfriend and LV’s ‘agent’ Ray Say.
Add Brendan Charleson as the archetypal cheesy club MC Mr Boo and Tendayi Jembere who’s touchingly gentle as LV’s love interest Billy and you’ve got a cast that really brings out the highs and lows in the script. Even the set’s a gem, a cut away house that revolves and lets the audience see what’s going on in every room, it’s suitably grim, grimy and claustrophobic. There’s an impressive bit of pyrotechnics in Act II as well that’ll have you checking out the fire exits!
Ultimately great theatre’s meant to stir up the emotions and the closing scenes do just that with more than one audience member nearby visibly shedding a tear or two during Sullivan’s moving closing solo. There’s no doubt about it, this particular Little Voice has a lot going for it. Highly recommended.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is on at The REP until Saturday May 30th. Tickets here!
P.S. All photos courtesy of Keith Pattison