Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice


Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
Despite all appearances to the contrary, Jim Cartwright's 1992 play, 
written for actress Jane Horrocks, is not a showbiz spectacular. Nor 
was it ever meant to be, not even with a cast drawn from cabaret, 
comedy and popular TV and theatre circuits as they are in Cartwright's 
own touring revival. Rather, this close-up of a shy young girl finding 
salvation through song is more of a feel-good flip-side to Road, 
Cartwright's debut, which arrived six years earlier like a template for 
Shameless.in the thick of Thatcherism

Little Voice may be set among the same northern English housing estate 
underclass, but where Road was unflinchingly brutal, Little Voice is a 
Viz comic picture post-card with a drunken punchline at the end of 
every scene. Nowhere is this best encapsulated than in the figure of 
Mari, LV's brittle good-time girl mother who falls in with would-be 
agent Ray Say before watching her shaky life go up in flames. Meanwhile 
upstairs, LV loses herself in her dad's old records, terrified of  the 
spotlight.

While the scene is set by a faux cabaret led by compere Duggie Brown 
and an interval game of bingo for the audience, there's something 
uneven in Cartwright's production that's nothing to do with understudy 
Philip Andrew taking over from an indisposed Joe McGann as Ray. It 
seems more to do with a company playing for laughs almost too much, 
 from Jess Robinson's star turn as LV downwards. The singing may be 
electric, but the only time the pathos of Cartwright's baroque speech 
patterns are captured fully is in Beverley Callard's big monologue as 
she sits in the burnt-out shell she used to call home.

The Herald, October 18th 2012

ends

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