Rise and Fall of Little Voice brings rapturous applause at The Loft.
Nona Davies as LV. Photo courtesy of The Loft Theatre.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice by Jim Cartwright at The Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa from 12 – 22 July 2023. Running Time 2 hours 10 minutes including interval.
Review by Les Grafton.
Many people will know ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’, Jim Cartwright’s 1992 play, from seeing the 1998 film version. Written especially for her, it made a star of Jane Horrocks and won her an Olivier. Director Viki Betts brings a similar star performance from Nona Davies as LV (Little voice) in this excellent Loft Theatre production.
She is matched by the rest of the cast who share the stage with her. This ‘northern fairy-tale’ oozes class from Richard Moore’s clever inside/outside set to Helen Brady’s perfectly chosen wardrobe. Lorna Middleton plays LV’s mother, Mari, with chaotic brittleness, doomed to fall for Mark Crossley’s oleaginous Ray Say, the ‘impresario’ who later takes advantage of her daughter’s gift. If they aren’t both from Lancashire they have caught the accent perfectly. Crossley’s lizard-like character echoes Leonard Rossiter’s ‘Rigsby’ in his language and manner.
Lorna Middleton as Mari and Mark Crossley as Ray. Photo courtesy of the Loft Theatre.
The opening scene is between mother and daughter, accompanied in virtual mime by Sabrina Spencer’s engaging comic turn as Sadie. Their bitter relationship is quickly established, as is the reason for LV’s love of show tunes and torch songs. This domestic tinderbox is defused by the introduction of Billy, a dreamer like LV, tenderly played by Charlie Longman, who is fitting a telephone which is hoped to expand Mari’s world and connect her to a better life. The dialogue crackles with jokes and malapropisms delivered in a very natural conversational way.
The comedy continues with the arrival of Ray whose leopard skin pants and luminous socks perfectly match Mari’s retro negligee ensemble. Their larger-than-life dreams contrast with LV’s reveries who, as a gauche wallflower, hides upstairs with her father’s record collection. When finally her “little” voice is discovered, the reveal is stunning. This precipitates the unravelling of the shaky family dynamic, as Ray desperately exploits the situation as his golden meal ticket, using his contact with Mr Boo, convincingly played by sharp-suited Rob Wooton, who completes the ensemble.
This pair’s connection as agent and club owner has an Ealing Comedy quality, reminiscent of many similar double acts. LV is cajoled into demonstrating her repertoire for the two men and here Nona Davies shows incredible vocal dexterity and range in performing a roster of great female voices. When later she is manoeuvred onto a stage with full costume, the Cinderella transformation into everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Cher is a further master class.
Charlie Longman as Billy and Nona Davies as LV. Photo courtesy of The Loft Theatre.
The setting highlights the impact of social and economic pressures on individuals showing us a household of stale food and incendiary wiring. As the play moves to the climax both Ray and Mari deliver separate and differently impassioned monologues. The powerful closing scene has Ray lighting up the theatre and LV giving her little voice a final, hopeful showcase. This moving production received rapturous applause on opening night and presages a run that will delight all those who attend.