Stage Review – The Rise and Fall of LITTLE VOICE

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This Jim Cartwright play is very popular, not everyone’s cup of tea but a fine example of a classic style British comedy.

It’s the early 90s and widow, Mari (Vicky Entwistle) resides with daughter, LV, a reclusive young woman played by Nancy Sullivan.

LV withdraws to her bedroom at any opportunity to play her late father’s vinyl records of diva performers popular in earlier decades. LV plays songs from her treasured collection with the volume up high, mostly to drown out Mari as she is loud mouthed, brash and often drunk. Mari’s affections go out to her new man, Ray Say (Chris Gascoyne) half heartedly to only friend, Sadie (Joanna Brookes) and even less so to LV. Hard up and sour puss, Mari prefers the booze and takeaways over the taking up of any responsibility of the domestic or maternal kind.

Mari and LV are both the sight and sound of this play in equal measures but for very different reasons. What LV lacks in the talking her mother more than makes up for.

LV’s singing, especially the second time performance at Mr Boo’s club, consists of a selection of songs geared particularly for Sullivan’s vocal style and ability, in the scene at the club it seems much more than a singer impressionist performing, much more than just cabaret; the Director’s choice to do it that way. It’s wonderful to watch it! As for Mari’s characterisation, Entwistle is accomplished and skilful enough with the comedy but does not manage the subtly in the performance to allow us any empathy of feeling for Mari. When it comes to tragedy of personal circumstance, something is amiss, with hearts going out to LV alone and not to both characters, as, perhaps, it should be.

The work of the technical staff in setting up the flashes and the controlled fire scenes is expertly good, and the team efforts of the light and sound engineers is forever crucial in making this play a joy for the eyes and ears of everyone in attendance. This production includes a stunning light display.

The set design of a skeletal two-up two-down dwelling is very clever. There is always a possibility of characters falling foul from taking the wrong footing on the stairs, especially Mari, in her heels, as she is constantly up and down them and Sadie too, when she mounts them, carrying LV over her shoulder. The tussles between characters in LV’s bedroom seemed somewhat perilous with such a long drop down to the stage floor, and as for Billy (Tendayi Jembere) in the cherry picker when he sets the hydraulics to the ceiling, my health and safety radar was on red alert! But I can report that all was well on press night!

Brendan Charleson
is Mr Boo and completes the cast mentions

Theatre critic, Debra Hall attended press night of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tuesday 19 May 7.00pm. A repeat of this review (without the photography) appears at Remotegoat Stage


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