Aria Entertainment, Katy Lipson, Glass Half Full Productions
Theatr Clwyd, Mold
April 18-23, 2022; 2hr 10min
(Also Liverpool Playhouse, May 16-21; Theatre Royal Wakefield, May 23-28; Lyceum Theatre Crewe, May 30-June 4; Lowry Salford, June 6-11; Blackpool Grand, June 13-18; Theatre Royal York, July 4-9)
The context of Jim Cartwright's engaging The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a northern town where there is no shortage of gritty reality, from the downtrodden environment of Little Voice’s family to the harsh, no-nonsense atmosphere of a low-rank nightclub.
With great characterisation, the play charts the rise of a reclusive girl to success and then documents her difficulties when over-burdened by the expectations of others.
It's a modern classic with a big reputation, not least because Cartwright is able to both capture the bittersweet experience of living in a marginalised community while displaying extraordinary imagination and creativity in the staging of his little fable.
Originally written for Lancashire actress Jane Horrocks, whose remarkable voice and ability to impersonate singing stars such as Shirley Bassey and Ethel Merman made her the archetypal "LV", successive productions continue to demand much of their star.
For the current tour that task falls to singer and actress Christina Bianco, who is asked to make us believe her character, in self-imposed bedroom isolation, has developed a gift for impersonating the singing voices of the likes of Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and Lulu. The fact is her performance of Somewhere Over The Rainbow is alone worth the price of the show ticket, and her range of other voices equally impressive.
And there's still more in Bronagh Lagan's production: Shobna Gulati is excellent as LV’s overbearing mother, Mari – especially when flirting with Ray Say, Ian Kelsey’s nightclub boss (though a little less so when facing the bitter reality of being over the hill). Fiona Mulvaney brings most laughs (as the character always does) as Sadie, Mari's downtrodden and sometimes cringeworthy friend.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a funny, surprisingly thoughtful experience. It doesn't sugar-coat working class life, but portrays its bleakness in a powerfully poetic way, stylised but still very true to its situation. Ultimately it remains optimistic, about the value to be placed on pure self-expression. It's a little voice that well deserves your attention.
Tickets and information here