Union Theatre, London – until 26 June 2016
My over-riding memory of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, written by Jim Cartwright, is the film version which was performed so fantastically by a well-known cast including Brenda Blethyn, Jane Horrocks, Ewan McGregor and Michael Caine. Having such respect for the film meant that the stage show had big shoes to fill.
Little Voice tells the story of the Hoff family. There’s the widowed Mari, a woman to whom spit and polish is a stranger and alcohol is a regular companion. Then there’s LV, her timid and withdrawn daughter who spends her life in her bedroom listening to records. These records are so embedded in her head that she has developed the ability to mimic the greats, such as Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few.
Whenever LV becomes distressed, which is a frequent occurrence, courtesy of her mother most of the time, up the stairs she goes and the record player is switched on. LV’s talent is hidden until she’s discovered by the over-eager and leery Ray Say who is her mother’s latest conquest. Then there’s Billy, who hangs around outside LV’s bedroom window in the hope that she’ll take an interest in his light show, and an interest in him, too. It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a dysfunctional family and their acquaintances, who all lack one fundamental ingredient in their lives… love.
I was won over from the start and this incredible piece of theatre completely blew me away. The space lent itself beautifully to the action, providing the audience with an intimate insight into the fray.
Charlotte Gorton knocked Brenda Blethyn’s performance off my radar as Mari Hoff. She was raucous, simpering and bordered on disgusting at times, but left just enough vulnerability to show that she has a heart, she just doesn’t know how to use it. Ken Christiansen gives it plenty of swagger as Ray, well cast as the Jack the Lad who’s looking to feather his own nest. He brought out a likeable quality in an otherwise devious character and I didn’t see that quality, previously. I liked the light and shade that he created and I’m keen to see more of Christiansen’s work.
James Peake epitomized Peter Kay as Club Owner, Mr Boo, he worked the audience brilliantly and lightened the tone of the show at all of the right times. Mandy Dassa played Sadie and her facial expressions said it all, which is necessary with Mari’s introverted next door neighbour. Glenn Adamson played love-struck Billy with a gentile quality which was endearing, the chemistry between Adamson and Carly Thoms who played LV, was just right for the would-be romance.
Carly Thoms is an amazing talent, her capabilities seem boundless, she plays the shy and frightened LV superbly, but when she embodies LV’s various heroes, her mimicry is second to none. She can impersonate Bassey, Monroe, Garland, Maria Callas and Piaf, one after the other, non-stop and her vocal ability is breath-taking. The difference between Thoms’ performance and that of Jane Horrocks is that I already knew that Horrocks had the knack. The surprise factor that accompanied Thoms’ put her performance off the scale.
From the costumes, to the set to the casting, it’s hard to find a show that one can liken to perfection, but I believe that this show has perfection written all over it. If you’re not able to see this tremendous piece of theatre, you’re missing out on one of the plays of the year. http://uniontheatre.biz/little_voice.html those tickets as soon as you can by following the link and enjoy!
Photo Credit: Scott Rylander