When I heard that “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice” was returning to the London stage I was absolutely delighted. Having enjoyed the film, and earlier productions including the last West End 2009 run, it’s return was highly anticipated by me.
Staged in The Union Theatre, of which this is the last production to be held at this site before moving to it’s new premises just across the road, a perfect scene is before us. The set is a grimy, actually no just plain dirty sitting room/kitchenette in a hovel of a home. Clearly cleaning or rather housekeeping is not high on Mari’s (Charlotte Gorton) agenda. Mother to “LV” (Carly Thoms) she is clinging on to her younger life, her apparel garish, and not in keeping with her age, she staggers in clearly a little worse for wear. Gorton a superb actress whom I’ve followed for sometime was the other instigator for me needing to see this show. Gorton always delivers and gets every nuance of the character out of her part and this is no exception giving a show stealing performance in this role. A course, brash, overly loud and for those who can remember a “Bet Lynch” type person whom we’ve all experienced and hope that we never become, played to utter perfection by Gorton.
The story of “Little Voice” centers around Mari’s daughter, her father having died at an early age she is left with a mother who neglects her and has no idea on how to keep house, seeking only to have fun and ultimately snaring a male companion. “LV” given the name as she can barely be heard seeks solace in her fathers vinyl collection preferring to remain at home mostly in her bedroom.
However her love for her father and his bequest to her manifests itself in a most unusual way, her ability to impersonate the heroines that she spends her time with is a wonder to see. When we first hear her do this as Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey you’d be forgiven and in thinking it is just the records you are hearing. However Ray Says (Ken Christiansen) Mari’s latest beau immediately thinks of the money opportunity, seeking to cash in on this rare and untapped talent. Christiansen captures the charisma whilst being a manipulative opportunist that this role demands perfectly.
Other noteworthy performances were Mandy Dassa as Sadie often the brunt of Mari’s jokes whilst being adorable in her affable simple nature. One of the scenes when Mari thinks that Ray has fallen for her and they play a tape of the Jackson 5 to dance a celebration is totally infectious. Such a small simplistic scene and yet so special in its delivery. James Peake as BT engineer and club owner Mr Boo reminded me of Peter Kay whether intentional or not it brought a smile to my face and added to his already great performance. Billy is a small role however was very endearingly played (Glenn Adamson) whose admiration and interest was tenderly delivered.
I mentioned earlier that this show is centers around “Little Voice” played by Carly Thoms it’s hard to believe initially that the impersonations are coming from Thoms. However when we se her for the very first time it is electrifying – what a talent so uncannily real. It is as if Judy Garland has been resurrected to perform one last time. For me the medley we see her successfully perform in the club was outstanding, I adore people giving you a shock of a performance which is completely spellbinding. This role however is not just about the singing or mannerisms, to deliver a surprise like this we have to first see the encompassing debilitating shyness to live life. The metamorphosis is incredible and one I won’t forget in a hurry, a “Star is Born” to coin a title of one of Garland’s films . Thoms acting is also displayed in her last scene with Gorton when she gives her all, when telling Gorton some home truths, both are exhaustingly superb. The direction by Alastair Kinghts is spot on throughout this punchy two hour play written by Jim Cartwright.
To summarise quite simply, you would be mad to miss this gem of a show in a perfect intimate setting with its incredible cast. It is earthy and gritty and like the cast has a heart of gold which shimmers and sparkles’ like Mari’s gold necklace! So go and see it whilst you can until 26th June at The Union Theatre.
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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – The Union Theatre until 26th June
★★★★★ “you would be mad to miss this gem of a show in a perfect intimate setting with its incredible cast”