THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE
by Jim Cartwright.
Tour to 1 December 2012.
Runs: 2hr 25min One interval: till 6th September.
Review: Alan Geary 1 October at Theatre Royal Nottingham.
Raucous comedy from the northern comedy circuit.
Little Voice contains features common to much of writer Jim Cartwright’s work: its subject matter is the under-class, the pathetic attempts to break free, the hopelessness. But at the same time it manages to be highly entertaining.
One of the best things about this particular production is the pre-action series of down-market turns at the working men’s club(splendidly compèred by Duggie Brown as Mr Boo). It includes a female George Formby impersonator (unconvincing) and a bloke, Eric Claptout, playing guitar with his teeth. There’s also genuine bingo during the interval.
Cartwright gives us some very funny lines, mostly from LV’s mother Mari – “Are you agoraphobical?” she asks Little Voice (Jess Robinson), “Cos if you are you can get out.” – all delivered in the “stirs” instead of "stairs” Lancastrian accent she shares with LV.
All the characters have a strong odour of failure about them, in their own terms as well as anyone else’s. Nobody’s asking for much out of life, but they’re not going to get even that. Or perhaps LV and Billy are going to move on: the last part seems ambiguous in this respect.
Everyone’s deliberately over-written and played accordingly: Mari, in her appalling leopard-skin tights, the blowsy old tart with not a lot of heart; the overweight Sadie (Sally Plumb). Even Billy (Ray Quinn) seems a bit simple to be a BT technician.
Theatrical agent Ray Say, coming on in one of those horrid leather jackets the colour of baby’s sick, was played by understudy Philip Andrew standing in for Joe McGann. Andrew is too young to be clapped out, but he’s excellent near the end in that sung speech to Roy Orbison’s ‘It’s Over’.
Even for Cartwright, Little Voice herself, stooped and grovelling, might be over-done. But when Robinson gets to belt out that medley from the divas – Piaf, Dietrich, Merman, Garland and the rest – she’s magnificent.
This is black comedy. At the end, in the moving scene where Mari surveys the burned out wreckage of her home – “I’m in the carcass of me own house” – some of the audience, appropriately or not, is still laughing.
Mari: Beverley Callard.
Billy: Ray Quinn.
Ray Say: Joe McGann.
Little Voice: Jess Robinson.
Mr Boo: Duggie Brown.
Sadie: Sally Plumb.
Ruby Lee: Cerise Hine.
Dolly: Lisa Howard
Tommy: John Cockerill.
Harry Marsh: Philip Andrew.
Director: Jim Cartwright.
Designer: Morgan Large.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Andrew Johnson.
1-6 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Nottingham 0115 989 55555 www.trch.co.uk
8-13 Oct 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Malvern Festival Theatre 01684 892277 www.malvern-theatres.co.uk
15-20 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described/BSL Signed Sat 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm) Captioned Thu King’s Theatre Edinburgh 0131 529 6000 www.edtheatres.com/kings
22-27 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Fri Eden Court Theatre Inverness 01463 234234 www.eden-court.co.uk
29 Oct-3 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Thu Captioned Fri Alhambra Theatre Bradford 01274 432000 www.bradford-theatres.co.uk/alhambra
5-10 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Congress Theatre Eastbourne 01323 412000 www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk
12-17 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm New Wimbledon Theatre 0844 871 7646 wwww.atgtickets.com/wimbledon
19-24 Nov Mon 8pm; Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Grand Theatre Blackpool 01253 743338 www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk
26 Nov-1 Dec 7.45pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 3pm Lyceum Theatre Sheffield 0114 249 6000 www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk