Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice @ New Wimbledon Theatre



Don’t be misled by the title – The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is anything but a simple sing-along.

By Pete Grant

Don’t be misled by the title – The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is anything but a simple sing-along.

Ten weeks into a successful UK tour, Jim Cartwright’s award-winning play arrives in Wimbledon with laughs, tears and a sentiment that stays with you long after the curtain falls.

Set in the working-class north, the play charts the story of Little Voice, a shy, reclusive girl with a sublime singing talent.

The part was originally written for Jane Horrocks, who went on to star in the 1998 Oscar-nominated film adaptation.

LV, as she’s known, spends her days in her bedroom desperately trying to keep the memory of her dead father alive by playing his beloved records.

The foreground sees her overbearing mother Mari in her stiletto-tottering, alcoholic middle age, groping around for meaning in the form of new love Ray Say, a local wannabe music promoter. 

When Ray stumbles across LV’s prodigious voice, he hatches a plan to thrust her into the limelight with little regard for her vulnerability.

Mari is played to perfection by ex-Coronation Street star Beverley Callard, whose commanding performance in a series of skin tight, garish dresses is one half slapstick farce, the other half tortured tragedy.

The set is well-devised, reflecting LV’s claustrophobic lifestyle in the interior of her and her mother’s dilapidated home.

And when LV takes to the stage for the second half, a glitter-ball descends as the audience are transformed into her variety club crowd for a mesmerising medley of impersonated classics.

Jess Robinson excels as LV with her uncanny recreation of hits from the likes of Lulu, Shirley Bassey and Diana Ross, and performs the final scenes of emotional epiphany with great zest.

The pre-show and interval entertainment provides an immersive audience experience, with costumed clubland entertainers mingling with the crowd between scenes.

Callard insists the surroundings of New Wimbledon Theatre make it a perfect venue for the show.

“We’ve all been looking forward to Wimbledon, it’s such a great theatre. I love being here,” she said.

“The surroundings are beautiful, just like a theatre should be.

You go on the stage here and you feel it’s like everything you ever dreamt of as a little girl, that’s how Wimbledon theatre looks and feels.”

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is now showing at New Wimbledon Theatre until November 17th.

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