Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Jim Cartwright
RPM Arts & Michael Harrison Productions
Kings Theatre, Edinburgh, and touring
(2008)

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Going to see this production was going to be a little daunting; it's one of my favourite plays and one of my favourite actors was in it. I wanted to like this and I was happy when I wasn't disappointed.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a modern drama set in the North of England about a shy girl who has the ability to mimic the amazing divas of the twentieth century. This is a great talent to have - however not when you are living with an overbearing and loud mother!

Even before the actors came on stage the audience were in fits of laughter; off stage you heard Mari (Elaine C Smith) coming in from a night out. Elaine C Smith is a versatile actress who shines in this part; it was as though Jim Cartwright had written it especially for her. Her ability to hold the audience in the palm of her hand throughout is magical, showing the depth needed for the comical moments as well as the dramatic.

The set showed a simple upstairs/downstairs house and this worked well in the way it showed the isolation of Little Voice's bedroom with Mari using a broom to bang the ceiling to tell her to turn her records off.

One of the best aspects of this production was the relocation: moving it from Northern England to Scotland was 'pure dead brilliant'; the audience engaged more, the text suited the dialect and it gave scope for the two well known faces to develop their characters.

Debbie Saloman plays the shy Little Voice. This actress has an amazing voice, her singing was pure and she gave powerhouse performances for all the divas she portrayed. I was left a little deflated though when I really didn't see a major change in her character and felt, through lack of direction, Little Voice never made that fantastic a journey!

Smith and Saloman created a real, true relationship between mother and daughter and you felt sorry for both by the end of the play, wanting them to go their separate ways but on good terms.

Andy Gray is a well known face at the King's Theatre during Pantomime season and although he dealt with the comedy scenes really well the audience began to boo and hiss him during the more dramatic scenes at the end with one woman sitting next to me saying, 'It's not a pantomime'. He never really made the drama believable for me and felt he was a bit out of his depth by the end of the play.

I felt overall the play lacked direction from Michael Harrison which at times left the audience a tad confused and missing moments where the sparks between characters really could have flown.

The acting was superb with special mention to Carole Anders as Sadie and Jim Webster-Stewart as Billy, who both gave confident performances as Mari's friend and Little Voice's love interest.

The audience gave the actors a standing ovation and were clearly wanting more. This is a thoroughly enjoyable production with some outstanding performances.

At the King's until 5th April, then touring to Dundee Rep, Dundee (14th April - 26th April), His Majesty's, Aberdeen (28th April - 3rd May), Adam Smith Theatre, Kirckaldy (7th May - 10th May), King's Theatre, Glasgow (12th May - 24th May) and Macrobert Centre, Stirling (26th May - 31st May)

Reviewer: John Naples-Campbell