THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE
by Jim Cartwright.
Hull Truck Theatre Company Tour to 17 September 2012.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 August at Oxford Playhouse.
A sympathetic outing for the little voice that creates big hopes in others..
Is this a formula for domestic dysfunction – a grown-up daughter who never speaks to anyone and a mother who won’t shut-up? Father Frank vanished years ago, at least meaning Mari no longer has to undergo introductions as “Mrs and Mrs F. Hoff”. Helen Sheals emphasises the aspirate, clearly remembering its embarrassment potential.
Otherwise, seeing who Mari is, Sheals presents her as near-tolerable as can be. Other Maris in Jim Cartwright’s 1992 play have made her louder, wilder, but if Hannah Chissick’s production limits (though by no means eliminating) the laughter potential, she and Sheals make Mari’s unfortunate life evident; the concentration in her eagerness for her first call shows the desperate need to communicate.
Relationships here are generally defined by desperation. Mari wants a man in her life, and picks on local showbiz middle-man Ray Say; who’s out to acquire her daughter LV’s talent for imitating the great popular signers, while he relies on local club-owner Lou Boo to boost his career.
“Call me Lou,” loses interest when things go awry, and hopes go up in smoke. Mari depends on supersized neighbour Sadie May as a comfort-blanket in trouble, but pushes her out elsewhere. As she pushes her daughter around for Ray’s sake.
LV herself sits in her bedroom, comforting herself by singing to the records her father left behind. The hero flying in to her rescue is Bill, apprentice ‘phone engineer (“the ‘phone Bill,” Mari dubs him, with the linguistic effervescence that contrasts LV’s reticence), arriving slowly on an engineer’s crane.
Both young people are taciturn, her singing paralleled by his love of rigging-up light displays and the tentative hope for their future is that they could complement each other in place of their elders’ mutual exploitation.
Lauren Hood finds the voices of Bassey, Garland, Piaf and others within her own larynx, while Neil McCaul looks and sounds the calculating northern entertainment businessman, Jack Chissick has the bluffness and the dismissiveness it masks.
Philip Hill-Pearson is aptly reticent and Lisa Riley’s Sadie, features stuck forward in blinkered determination, ever-willing, her positive attitude summed-up by another “OK”, is delightfully sympathetic.
Mari Hoff: Helen Sheals.
Little Voice: Lauren Hood.
Phone Man/Mr Boo: Jack Chissick.
Sadie: Lisa Riley.
Billy: Philip Hill-Pearson.
Ray Say: Neil McCaul.
Director: Hannah Chissick.
Designer: Susannah Henry.
Lighting: Douglas Kuhrt.
Music Director: Mark Aspinall.
Choreographer: Nick Winston.
Assistant director: Paul Smith.