The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

30 March 2017

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

A timid and brilliant young woman, Little Voice has a hidden talent – she can sing like the greatest divas of the 20th Century.

Living a lonely life in a northern town, all she wants is to be safe in her room with her records. No chance with mother Mari on the rampage – she’s after booze, a man, a greasy breakfast, and a working phoneline. 

When local impresario Ray forces Little Voice into the spotlight, her transformation astounds everyone. Then the battle between mother and daughter truly erupts. 

Funny, brutal, beautiful and sad, Jim Cartwright’s timeless and ultimately uplifting tale is a comic tragedy about finding your voice in a noisy world.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice Review by Noda

Society: St Peter Players
Production: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
Date: 30th March 2017
Report By: Judith Watsham

Thank you for making me so welcome.  I never really like coming along to report on a first night although, having said that, there is no real reason why someone buying a ticket for the last performance should have a better theatrical experience that the one in the audience for the first!

Little Voice is probably the best known of Jim Cartwright’s plays, although I know he  has written many more and I was pleased to see the programme notes about him – well researched and interesting to read.  You were very fortunate to find someone to play the title role who could come as close to mimicking the singing stars as did Leanne O’Reilly; indeed your cast was a very strong one, well directed by Ruth Corner.

Your set was really excellent, well designed by Ruth and your Stage Manager, Alan Caesar Gordon.  Everything required for the various scenes was there so that there was no need for long changes, just a few props to be set and the gold slash curtain to represent the stage of the Club.  Well built by Alan and Graham Caesar Gordon, Les Brewer and Tina Barclay with excellent specialist painting by Helen Capewell, nearly everything about it was just so right.  The only, small and nit-picking, quibble I have was that you did not find a spot for a small TV – miming switching the set on did not work for me.  If it is set facing upstage it can be partly behind the tabs if space is a problem.

Costumes, Ruth again with Liz Peskin, were also exactly right and very well chosen to evoke the fashions of the late 1980s and early ‘90s.

Janeta Kling and Joan Carr provided excellent period props, and from where I was sitting the newspaper looked right for the early ‘90s when colour really started to take over the front and back pages.  See my note above regarding the TV though!

Some lights (Les Brewer) and sound (Ollie Bentley) were not always in synch, for example when the power tripped, the lights did not always go out when the bang was heard.  Lights only were affected when the bathroom light did not seem to go on and off when the cord was pulled and there was one occasion when Billy’s torch, which had been apparently been shining through a window, was switched off and the light magically remained on the cill.

However the lights, both spot and juke box, worked well in the club scenes and as far as sound was concerned I was impressed by the accuracy of the ringing telephone.  One question though – was the Juke Box Jury theme, used for all the frequent scene changes, scripted?  I know that JBJ was revived for a year in 1989 but I think that the version you used is primarily associated with the period to 1967 isn’t it?  Both sound and light gave an excellent fire effect too.

Liz Peskin as Mari was really excellent.  Your Lancashire accent sounded right to my ears and was very well maintained.  As you were partly responsible for the costumes I just want to add that yours were very well selected and matched your character so well, mutton dressed as lamb says it all I think.  Finally, may I add that you brought out all the nuances and light and shade in Mari’s character and towards the end your emotional breakdown was a real tour de force.

Leanne O’Reilly in the title role gave us very realistic impressions of the stars of stage and screen.  You sang in appropriate accents too and each of the singers mimicked was recognizable – most especially Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey.  Your accents for all of them were good too.  Your Lancashire accent slipped slightly in your emotional scene at the end but this did not detract from your overall performance.

A very well padded Tina Barclay portrayed the somewhat dim and taciturn Sadie May very well, in character all the time and always on the ball.  Not that easy either, when your role is to react whilst saying very little.  Small point Tina, you made tea and then held both mugs by their sides instead of their handles; I think had there been hot liquid you would have had to drop them both!  Your facial expressions were a joy to watch as was your eccentric dancing.

Nic Barton played Ray Say well and your London accent contrasted well with the other Lancashire ones.  Personally, I felt you were too nice and gentle right up until the moment you turned on Mari and told her a few home truths.  Perhaps an earlier, rather more violent, facial expression out of Mari’s sight would have led more naturally to your final scene with her?

Graham Caesar Gordon doubled the small roles of Telephone Man and Mr Boo effectively – loved the overalls and the very flamboyant green DJ!

Steve Cubbage’s shy tongue-tied Billy was very believable.  Just watch those Southern English vowels when trying a Northern English accent though.

Last, but not least, your talented pianist in Act II.  Well played Oliver Roberts.  I see there is a credit in the programme for Aiden Kingman on drums, and, at the end when the Players were clearing the hall I spotted your kit.  However, I must confess that I was not aware that you were playing.  If you were, I apologise, if not I will be relieved to know that I am not that deaf!

Judith Watsham
Regional Rep NODA London 11A