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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – The Lantern Theatre, LIverpool

Writer: Jim Cartwright

Director: Karl Falconer

Reviewer: Tim Stone


Although originally a play by Jim Cartwright, when watched by a live audience comparisons are undoubtedly made with the hugely successful film starring Horrocks, Blethyn and Caine.

LV or Little Voice (Jessica Olwyn) so nicknamed by her hedonistic, overloud, coarse mother, Mari Hoff (Lisa Symonds) is almost obsessively shy, spending all her time listening to her dead father’s collection of LPs in her bedroom; performers such as Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey, while her mother goes out nightly, drinks and picks up men. Their lives are changed when Ray Say (Jason Carragher) a third rate performers’ agent, always looking to make his fortune, enters their small world. It is when he hears LV’s singing and her impersonations of her father’s heroines that he realises that this could be his ticket to longed for riches. The play is about loss; from the late Frank Hoff, to dreams; about manipulation and exploitation. It is little wonder that in the end there seems very little in the way of hope for the majority of the characters.

This play is like Scarborough rock with the word British running all the way through it. It has the rawness and grit of rough Northern England, intermingled however, with the bulldog British humour which is present until it can take the characters and situations no further and the inevitable self destruction buttons are pressed. This production played the humour to the full, from the wonderfully crude Mari and the more subtle Ray; “topping the bill at the reform club” and even the voice of Jimmy Saville telling everyone to “be safe” which brought much ironic laughter from the audience. Symonds and Carragher were impressive from beginning to the end; developing the pathos of their characters until the grand finale; Olwyn’s ability is clear for all to see; impersonating Garland, Monroe to Piaf to name a but a few; making the singing part her own, but needing slightly more depth in her acting.

They were all ably assisted by a small cast but the fully rounded production did not gel enough for me to give it top marks. The stage was over fussy (admittedly in a small venue), as were the entrances and exits of the actors; through back curtains; through a mock door, stage left, stage right, stage centre which could have all done with simplifying, while the sound lacked consistency. However, this is nit picking on what was a thoroughly wonderful evening’s entertainment from a challenging play by a small production company (Purplecoat Productions) of dedicated actors and backstage staff. This is British grassroots theatre at its best; the venue and the production company and should be supported to the full.

Photo: Lorna Roberts

Runs until 23rd December 2012

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