Review – The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Oct 20 2012 | By More


King’s Theatre: 15 – 20 Oct 2012
Review by Thom Dibdin

There is not much that is little – and plenty that is large – about Jim Cartwight’s own direction of his smash hit musical comedy, the story of a painfully shy Laura Hoff whose full-throated ability to mimic the great popular torch singers is at odds with her tiny, speaking voice.

Big and bold in both its telling and its staging, without doing anything too fancy, it draws out the production in a way which recent productions have singularly failed to do.

Beverley Callard as Mari Hoff and Sally Plumb as Sadie in Little Voice

Beverley Callard as Mari Hoff and Sally Plumb as Sadie in Little Voice

Cartwright finds an easy balance between comedy and theatre, between the delicious vulgarity of the night-club and the soaring beauty of Laura – dubbed by her mum as Little Voice or LV’s – singing.

The key is that sense of the delicious. Cartwright brings a real belief in the intrinsic worth of everything he describes. In particular, the vibrant, self-centred, downtrodden, ever-hopeful, and vicious Mari Hoff, Laura’s widowed mother, a man-eater of the first water.

There are many who have fallen into the easy traps of making Mari the villain of the piece, overemphasising her comic potential or dismissing her as an old slapper to be derided. Not so Beverley Gallard who brings Mari to brilliant life in a triumphant performance. She finds all the comedy but, when called on to do so, also finds the pathos and humanity of the role.

Cartwright also brings out a real love of the working mens’ club scene, into which Ray Say, Mari’s lover, attempts to take Laura’s talents. Even as the audience are arriving a ukulele player is razzing up the crowd and the breaking of the fourth wall, which makes the King’s auditorium itself, an unlikely night-club, extends to the interval, complete with bingo.

The production moves comfortably back and forward between the two settings. Between the club’s dazzle and the dowdy, damp two-up, two-down terrace where Mari rolls her latest beau drunkenly around the downstairs room while LV listens to her late father’s record collection upstairs in her bedroom.

Jess Robinson is excellent in the role of Little Voice, which Cartwright originally wrote for Jane Horrocks. She can sing well in her own right and her mimicry of the likes of Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and, most poignantly given the mother-daughter relationship, Judy Garland.

Ray Quinn takes on role of Billy, the telephone engineer with a love of lighting who falls for Little Voice. It’s no huge part, but her performs it well enough.

Philip Andrew slips easily into the shoes of the indisposed Joe McGann as Ray Say. Again, Cartwright refuses to condemn his characters, acknowledging Ray’s role in recognising LV’s talent, even if he does so for completely selfish reasons.

But it is Sally Plumb as the overweight and put-upon next-door neigbour Sadie who really defines the production. Cartwright gives Plumb the opportunity to make her amusing with constant  “okay” and pushes the physical comedy, too. There’s no malice, though. So much so that when an exasperated Mari calls her “fat” as an insult, in a moment of crisis, its a real gasp-inducing moment.

A big-hearted production which has plenty to sing about, over and beyond Jess Robinson’s brilliant singing.

Run ends Saturday 20 October

Little Voice tour website:


15th – 20th October Kings Theatre, Edinburgh BUY TICKETS
22nd – 27th October Eden Court Theatre, Inverness BUY TICKETS
29th October – 3rd November Alhambra Theatre, Bradford BUY TICKETS
5th – 10th November Congress Theatre, Eastbourne BUY TICKETS
12th – 17th November New Theatre Wimbledon BUY TICKETS
19th – 24th November Grand Theatre, Blackpool BUY TICKETS
26th November – 1st December Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield BUY TICKETS


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