Writer: Jim Cartwright
Director: Elizabeth Newman
Reviewer: Tracey Lowe
Due to the success of the film ‘Little Voice’, starring some of the best British acting talent, a lot of the British public are familiar with this great play. It had a short lived West end revival a few years ago, starring X Factor reject Diana Vickers, and is going on tour later this year with another X Factor cast off, Ray Quinn. However, that production will have to go a long way to beat the one currently being staged at Bolton Octagon.
The story of Little Voice is a relatively simple one. LV and her brash mother, Mari, live alone following the death of LV’s father. In contrast to Mari’s boisterous antics, LV hides in her room all day silently listening to the records her father left her. One night, Mari brings home aspiring artist manager Ray Say, who discovers that LV has a talent for impersonating great female singers such as Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. Things inevitably go wrong as Ray attempts to push the painfully shy LV into the limelight, and Mari becomes increasingly jealous of the attention Ray is giving to LV. The only comforts LV has are her records, and a similarly shy boy, Billy, who has a habit of appearing at her window.
The team at the Octagon have done a fabulous job of staging this play. The set is brilliant, with the lower half acting as Mari and LV’s grimy living room, and the upper half as LV’s bedroom. I am an absolute sucker for a revolving set, and it is used brilliantly in the second act, when we are treated to LV’s first public performance.
I can’t say enough good things about the cast. Sue Devaney, who you may remember from Dinnerladies, is brilliant as Mari. Starting the play throwing herself around the stage in an almost slapstick manner, her portrayal of Mari’s descent into hysteria is captivating. She helps us understand what a truly ghastly woman Mari really is.
Matt Healy does a great job as the slimy Ray Say. There are also some great comic turns from the supporting cast, Sally Bankes as the put-upon Sadie, and Max Beesley Snr as nightclub owner Mr Boo.
One of the most important things in casting this play is getting someone with a great and versatile voice to play the part of LV. Bolton Octagon have found a real star with Katie Elin-Salt. While she wasn’t absolutely indistinguishable from the greats she was impersonating, she undoubtedly has a wonderful voice and a great stage presence. She switched effortlessly between vocal impersonations in LV’s first big performance, and her rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ at the end of the first act brought a few tears to my eyes. And there is a wonderful scene between Mari and LV towards the end of the play that shows she has potential to be a great actress.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a great show, combining a flawless script with some great music. The Octagon Theatre has got something really special here. It was disappointing to see a few empty seats on a Friday night, but the well-deserved standing ovation from the enthralled audience more than made up for it.