Debut Festival Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

So newbie, what are you reviewing today?

I’m here to review Jim Cartwright’s comedy The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, directed by Catherine Bell.

Grand. What’s it about then?

Little Voice (LV) is a lonely, young girl with very little going for her: her father has died, her mother, Mairi, is gobby and overbearing and there only ever seems to be Ryvita in her biscuit tin. Identified by her tiny, often ignored voice, the only way LV seems to be able to express herself is in her bedroom where she plays her father’s records on a loop, imitating the divas in his collection. Soon, however, this last little piece of comfort is to be taken away when Mairi begins dating Ray Say, a sleazy, small-time music agent who sees LV’s impressions as his big break. All LV wants is a peaceful loving home, but surrounded by loud characters, how can her little voice be heard?

It’s not a… MUSICAL… is it? * Shudders *

No, there are no jazz hands, and this play actually has a plot (Yes, We Will Rock You, I’m looking at you)! But there most certainly is singing. Jennifer Healy (LV) masterfully navigates her way across voices ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Shirley Bassey, giving us heartbreaking insights into LV’s isolated and ironic position as an individual seeking to be loved for her own voice in a world of showmen.

‘Showmen’ you say – best explain this thematic leap, English student.

The comedy in the play relies on excess: unfolding in a tiny house, Cartwright’s characters are far bigger than their shabby surroundings. Clad in the gaudiest of attire (where on earth were Ray’s shirts procured? They are wonderfully awful!), Mairi, Ray and Mairi’s long suffering friend Sadie spend the first act rhyming off reels of puns that will have you laughing for all the wrong reasons. However in the second half these wise-cracks start to show the actual-cracks in the characters’ tragic lives.

Ohhh… deep. What about the staging then? (If you’re going to get all technical about it, like…)

Technical stuff is important, ok?! Particularly when it’s great. Musical Director Luke Devaney’s production had my toes tapping the whole way along, and Charli Matthews’ clever set design really highlighted the personal nature of LV’s many voices. She may well cry, “There’s no place like home!” in the guise of Judy Garland’s Dorothy, but the location of Mr Boo’s club, slap-bang in the middle of Mairi’s bottle laden living room (this show serves as a potent reminder about recycling), only served to show LV’s personal desire to belong, her lost security and the destructive power of the selfish people around her.

So it’s worth seeing then?

This show is quirky, clever and moving. With such a short running time (1hr10) the depth of the characters could easily have been lost, but through obvious understanding on the part of the cast and intelligent staging, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is topnotch theatre.

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