Park Theatre – until 15 September 2018
You’re expecting extremes when you hear the title but the latest revival of Jim Cartwright’s The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice at London’s Park Theatre occupies the middle ground, not sensational but not awful either.
A theatre, am-dram or professional, is staging Little Voice, probably as I write this. It has become a mainstay for many, and you can see why. It is darkly funny, tragic and thought-provoking, with music from some of history’s greatest divas and populated by a collection of grotesque caricatures.
The gimmick in this latest production is that it stars real-life mother and daughter, Sally George and Raphaella Hutchinson as overbearing, boozy, slattern of a mother, Mari, and her timid daughter LV, although that’s not really much to hang your hat on. You’re tempted to say “so what?” To be honest it doesn’t make a jot of difference.
George, make-up smeared across Mari’s tired out face, and hair all over the place, pretty much holds the entire production together with her turn as the flawed, desperate, lonely mum, who staggers from one man and one bottle of booze to another, in order to get through the day.
There’s a lot unsaid and unexplained in Cartwright’s plot but the gist is that LV has retreated to her bedroom, following the death of her father, and spends her time listening and imitating the singers in her father’s record collection.
She is timid in the extreme, frozen with fear when confronted by a ringing telephone, but there is clearly something else going on in her vulnerable mind which her mother puts down to surly indifference.
And, it’s true, that there are times when Hutchinson’s performance is less timorousness and more bolshy teenage angst. She glowers at her mum with that petulent look us parents have all endured from our socially inept and reluctant kids.
The house is knackered and worn out, a bit like its owner. The wiring is dodgy, the filthy fridge and kitchen devoid of anything that’s safe to eat, but that doesn’t stop, Sadie, the comedy next-door neighbour, raiding the mouldy green cornflakes and tucking into them with gusto.
Mari brings home her latest catch, the sweaty, opportunist, small-time promoter, Ray Say (Kevin McMonagle delightfully sleazy) after a night out and he hears LV singing Judy Garland.
From that moment onwards he is determined to exploit the girl’s remarkable talent for mimickry and get her a booking at the local club – a proposition that fills the young girl with terror.
Tom Latter’s production is, like the title, one of highs and lows. The first act relies heavily on Sally George’s tawdry Mari making most of the running but, oddly, there’s little chemistry between her and Hutchinson, or anyone else.
There are heavy silences and flat moments when the story doesn’t flow, which are only momentarily lifted by Jamie-Rose Monk’s lumbering Sadie, bursting into life for a Michael Jackson moment, and the arrival of club owner and MC, Lou Boo, (Shaun Prendergast delivering a wonderfully reptilian turn at the mike).
The only time the show delivers any energy is in the second act when LV is thrust onstage to do her turn. It’s a bit karaoke, and not all the impersonations are spot on, but Hutchinson does acquit herself well.
An uneven production which doesn’t take the show anywhere else that it hasn’t been before.
The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice runs at the Park Theatre until September 15.
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