Writer: Jim Cartwright
Director: Bronagh Lagan
Reviewer: Simon Topping
Joyful performances from an excellent cast, in a play that is a little frayed at the edges.
LV (Christina Bianco) locks herself away from her loud, alcoholic mother and escapes to her bedroom to play old records left to her by her deceased dad; the era of Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Marylin Munroe are her world.
LV’s mum, Mari (Shobna Gulati), doesn’t share or care for her daughters obsession. It is her mission to “bag a man” while she can; someone who can lead her out of the poverty that surrounds her on a daily basis. Enter Ray Say (Ian Kelsey) a fading, squalid and heavily indebted music impresario who hears LV mimicking the stars she listens to on her record player and is blown away not only by her voice, but, more importantly, by the money making opportunity that LV’s talent could provide him.
The cast shine in this revival, the original of which propelled Jane Horrocks to fame, first of all in the 1992 play and then the subsequent 1998 film, co-staring, Horrocks, Michael Caine as Say and Brenda Blethyn as Mari.
Here Gulati is excellent as the abusive parent, shambling her way through life from one disaster to another. She is a fabulous comedic actress and bears the weight of her wordy role well. Her comic movement with fellow actors Kelsey and Fiona Mulvaney (Sadie) is often very funny and receives warm laughter in the room.
Kelsey shines as seedy Say, manipulating Mari and LV as much as he can. His wonderful performance is reminiscent of an evil Paddy McGuiness crossed with Simon Cowell.
Bianco as Little Voice steals the show on several occasions with her dizzying array of sung voices, and particularly wows in the spell binding medley performed a Mr Boo’s club. An evening just listening to Bianco sing would be massively rewarding in itself.
Mulvaney works well as the production clown and Akshay Gulati as LV’s love interest, Billy, has a warm and commanding presence throughout his performance.
The set, artfully designed by Sara Perks, draws you into the destitute world of Mari well. The grime, depravity and stickiness of the falling down house jump out at the audience, it is a beautifully constructed piece of art.
The sticking point with the production is the thirty year old script. Jim Cartwright’s writing feels like a bygone era now, which somewhat hampers the play. It is not this, by itself, that dates the play, but the humour adopted to goad Mari’s best friend, Sadie and some of the broader “gags” that fall short as the night continues. It is these moments do not appear to be in tune with a modern audience.
That being said, all the performances are strong in this production and the musical pieces are stunningly carried off, which still makes Little Voice an enjoyable evening at the theatre.
Runs to 30th April