Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Jim Cartwright
Wyvern Theatre Swindon

Jess Robinson as Little Voice Credit: Paul Coltas
Jess Robinson and Ray Quinn Credit: Paul Coltas
Beverley Callard and Sally Plumb Credit: Paul Coltas

The audience at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon were fully enjoying the pre-show entertainment of corny jokes and a raffle courtesy of Mr Boo at his northern working men’s club before the start of Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

Written in 1992, this bitter-sweet play focuses on the shy reclusive Little Voice (LV) superbly played by Jess Robinson who still mourns the loss of her father and seeks solace in her bedroom dressed in her pyjamas listening to his old vinyl collection of records.

Through the songs of such divas as Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Edith Piaf, LV has developed the uncanny talent of perfectly imitating these iconic stars.

Her gritty, alcoholic mother Mari, the excellent Beverley Callard, (who previously played Liz McDonald in Coronation Street) dressed in gaudy short dresses and tops, fizzes with energy and has great physicality and comic timing.

She is desperate to find a new man and when the smarmy exploitative talent scout Ray Say, strikingly portrayed by Simon Thorp, becomes her lover the family’s life is going to change forever.

When Ray Say hears LV’s singing, he realizes that he has an opportunity to make it big in the clubs if only he can persuade LV to perform.

Duggie Brown plays the stereotypical club owner Mr Boo with relish and quickly establishes a lucrative partnership with Say.

There is a blossoming romance between LV and the shy telephone engineer Billy (Ray Quinn) who courts LV from his cherry-picker in a touching moment of love with two kindred spirits coming together.

Sally Plumb, as the overweight, long-suffering neighbour Sadie, gives sterling comic support.

When LV finally performs in the club and the spotlight hits her, Robinson is transformed into a true star with a tour-de-force performance of her long-remembered divas that sends shivers down your spine.

Morgan Large’s multi-level set perfectly captures the northern, working class home and is atmospherically lit by Jason Taylor and includes a number of surprises.

Directed with pace and verve by Jim Cartwright, this is a moving, poignant and highly enjoyable production that richly deserved the audience’s enthusiastic applause.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp