THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE
by Jim Cartwright.
The Union Theatre, to 25 June
204 Union Street, London SE1 0LX to 25 June 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: William Russell 5 June.
A good play to say Goodbye to the present Union, but the show, shows its age.
An Olivier award winner in 1993 this play about the girl who, ill treated by her sluttish widowed mother, retreats to her bedroom and plays her father’s collection of records by every show business diva imaginable, launched Jane Horrocks as a star name. The surprise is that Little Voice, or Ellvee, can sing in all those voices.
It is a good choice as a farewell show for the Union which is moving next month to brand new premises across the road from the railway arch it has occupied this last 20 years. But the play is showing its age and while director Alastair Knights has secured splendid performances from Carly Thomas as Little Voice and Ken Christiansen as Ray Say, the small time show business promoter, who is her mother’s current boyfriend.
Charlotte Gordon, however, does rather chew the scenery as Mari, the slattern mum. She is very funny, but it is all just too over the top. Mari is a desperate good time girl who is just beginning to lose her appeal and sees the sleazy Say as a last chance for the good life. One should feel just as sorry for her as for her sad, abused child, but so extravagant is the performance she becomes rather tiring. One does not care what happens to Mari.
Carly Thomas delivers the necessary impressive performances as the various divas – inevitably Garland is among them – and makes Ellvee herself a touchingly abused figure. There is also nice work from Glenn Anderson as the nice shy boy who takes a shine to her, James Peake as the boss of the nightclub and Mandy Dassa as Mari’s best friend.
Just why the play won those awards – it also featured in the Evening Standard awards – is, on the face of it, not at all clear. Maybe it was a bad year for comedies, or possibly it was the impact of Horrocks’ performance made it seem better than it really was.
A perfectly decent play, it deserves its revival as a showcase at least for Little Voice, but it works only intermittently. Perhaps it is just that the period is not conjured up – we are not back in the 1990s but in some council house limbo land whenever and what rang true in 1993 does not ring true today. The telephone model, for a start, is quite wrong. The Union is not going out on the crest of a wave, but sailing brightly enough to the future.
Mari Hoff: Charlotte Gorton.
Little Voice: Carly Thomas,
Ray Say: Ken Christiansen.
Sadie: Many Dassa
Bill: Glenn Adamson.
Mr Boo/Phone Man: James Peake.
Director: Alastair Knights.
Costume & Set Design: Libby Todd.
Lighting Design: Jack Weir.
Sound Design: Andrew Josephs.
Musical Staging: Anthony Whiteman,