Writer/Director: Jim Cartwright
Reviewer: Jenni Dixon
As the audience settles in to the auditorium, Mr Boo the night club owner is engaging in a bit of stand up, you’re handed a raffle ticket and encouraged to get involved. Mr Boo and his entourage take you into a world of northern humour in a working man’s club type atmosphere.
Little Voice is a shy, quiet girl, who rarely ventures outside and has to put up with her overzealous, often inebriated mother. They live together in a homely but slightly dishevelled two up two down. Little Voice (LV) loves nothing more than listening to the records that her Dad left her when he died. The likes of Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Liza Minnelli seem to be of great comfort for the young girl, much to the annoyance of Mari, her mother.
Mari finds herself a new man, Ray Say. He’s a local talent scout trying to enhance his portfolio of “stars”. During a fumble in the lounge with Mari, there’s a power cut and Little Voice reveals her secret. No longer able to listen to her record player, she belts the tunes out herself. In perfect pitch and replication Ray can’t believe his ears and luck! He’s found his star in LV! Reluctant to have any part in the venture, LV is forced on stage to “do her thing”.
As fast as she rises to fame, she falls. Burnt out and on the edge, LV can’t continue. She refuses to go out of the house one evening and as Ray storms out, he knocks over the hot iron resulting in the house burning, with LV in it. Is she saved? Will she continue? What happens to Mari?
The set is two levels of the house with great attention to detail and some great special effects incorporated – blowing of fuses, ceiling falling down etc. Changes of scenes are done with a musical interlude and a glitter ball light effect. It was cleverly done and a great deal of design thought had obviously gone into it all.
Beverley Callard is somewhat type cast in her rôle, although perhaps an extreme version of her well known rôle as Liz MacDonald from TV soap Coronation Street, Mari is a loud, northern, promiscuous woman with no time for work but plenty of time for drinking and socialising. Beverley is in control at all times and is good at keeping the pace. Simon Thorp as Ray Say is the northern equivalent of Boysie. On the lookout for the best deal he can get and really has no interest in Mari. Thorp gave a confident but less than memorable performance from Thorp.
Billy (Ray Quinn) has a small rôle as a BT Technician who comes to help install a new phone. He is taken by the shyness of LV and becomes her confident, albeit via her bedroom window. Ray plays Billy perfectly, understated, calm and quiet. The phenomenon of the night is Jess Robinson as Little Voice. Her impersonations of the singing greats are absolutely outstanding. The audience seemed to be in great awe as she performed. Such power and precision in her singing gave great contrast to her meek and timid acting, both equally amazing.
Over all, this is a well paced piece of theatre with an amazing set and some truly outstanding moments of acting and singing. It has one short interval during which Mr Boo keeps entertaining the audience.
Runs until 9th March 2013 at the Theatre Royal, Brighton