Writer: Jim Cartwright
Director: Kate Wasserberg
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon
Cartwrights iconic, Olivier Award-winning musical comedy has brought its audience to a rousing standing ovation at Theatr Clwyd. The Rise and Fall of Little Voice premiered in 1992 and is nostalgic not only for its early 90s setting but for its principle characters fascination with the classic records of Hollywood and Vegas idols like Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey and Marilyn Monroe.
Director Kate Wasserberg has taken the audience on a real trip down memory lane introducing us to characters from a time when making it big in a small northern town meant big suits, big hair, and a big voice. With Amy Cooks bold and brash costume designs, the characters feel like a very vivid memory of a time just on the outskirts of memory.
Nicola Reynolds plays Mari Hoff, Little Voice’s brassy loud and unconventional mother with real flair. She harnesses not only the potty-mothed comedic side of the character which the audience both loves and loathes, but also her softer side that reminds us that she is, after all, mother to a fragile and scared daughter. Dressed in animal prints, skin-tight denim, a plastic gold coat and all of the jewellery you could find in the BHS closing down sale, she is every bit the working class good-time girl gone to seed that Cartwright would have envisioned when writing the play 25 years ago.
The character of LV, or Little Voice to use her full title, is a role with a challenge. LV is Mari’s frail, painfully shy daughter; however, the actress taking the role has to be able to imitate the singing and speaking voices of a range of stars from Judy Garland to Dusty Springfield. Catrin Aaron recreates these voices perfectly, so much so that she even has a fair few members of the audience singing along with her. Hers is an admirable portray of the role. The only qualm is that there doesn’t seem to be enough obvious age difference in the cast for Aaron to play Reynold’s daughter with absolute believability.
The rest of the cast are equally captivating, Victoria John as Sadie is a real comic treat. The ‘celebration dance’ between Mari and Sadie is a moment in theatre that will stay with you for a very long time. Simon Holland Roberts and Christian Patterson as Ray Say and Mr Boo are classic northern showmen straight out of a Peter Kay sketch and Joseph Tweedle plays LV’s quiet, nervous hero Billy with adorable yet awkward charm.
The set design has real streak of genius transforming from the Hoff household to Mr. Boo’s club – the transformation is a little slow but is covered by a fabulous mix of 90s music. The second half lacked pace at times but will undoubtedly pick up pace as the run continues.
Theatr Clwyd have taken a play that can feel dated, and have brought it to life with fresh vigour. Cartwright is fabulous playwright but his words need care and attention to detail to make them truly come to life on stage. The cast and creatives have done a fine job so if you get the chance, go on, treat yourself to a ticket.
Runs until Saturday 28th October 2017 | Image: Manuel Harlan