Theatre Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice - Theatre Royal Glasgow ✭✭✭

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice 
Theatre Royal Glasgow
Review by Lisa Davidson

Set in a working class town 'oop North', the working man's club scene is set before the play begins as the audience are welcomed / baffled by Mr Boo (Duggie Brown) inviting them to buy raffle tickets in aid of ferret and whippet charities, reminding them that there's no pies tonight and introducing a bizarre spoon-playing cabaret act Sugar and Spoons. One or two bemused audience members beside me were looking for raffle tickets at one point - although they soon cottoned on when prizes of jars of pickled gherkins were being offered out!

The ridiculous opening is contrasted by the sublime voice of Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow. Her voice fills the blacked-out set and echoes around the theatre before the wickedly filthy cackle of Mari (Beverley Callard) shatters the tranquillity.  Callard embraces the ageing disgracefully Mari carefully walking that fine line between larger than life and pantomime villain. Callard steals the show as the overbearing and brassy Mari, transforming in the blink of an eye from fun-loving and amusing to bitter, angry and cruel at unsettling speed. She appears to be the life and soul of the party but in reality is selfish, entitled and clutching onto a dream of escaping her life.

While Mari parties downstairs her daughter with her friend Sadie (Sally Plumb) - watch out for them cutting some impressive shapes to the Jackson Five - Little Voice (LV), shuts herself upstairs surrounding herself with the music left to her by her dear departed Dad. Jess Robinson is captivating as the human myna bird LV. She captures the essence of a terrified little bird and pours it into LV creating a shadow of a person that seems to exist in shadows until her horrendous mother and her sleazy man of the moment Ray Say (Simon Thorp) push her into the limelight at the local working man's club. LV's performance is like an amazing jukebox flicking between discs, the persona changes in a blink of an eye reproducing the wonderful voices that fill her bedroom.

Robinson's singing and incredible reproduction of the original artists is the highlight of the show. While the characters are interesting and portrayed well by the able cast, it's a great pity that the innocent, budding love story between LV and Billy (Ray Quinn) doesn't get the opportunity it deserves. Instead it is a fleeting side show to the unstoppable juggernaut of drama, Mari. The plot is a weakness of the production and, despite early promise and an impressive house set that dominates the stage, it meanders to a conclusion that's both perfunctory and unsatisfying. The cast work well with the material they have but there are opportunities to raise the stakes and lift Little Voice to a crescendo but it languishes sotto voce.

Three stars ✭✭✭

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is playing at Theatre Royal Glasgow until 8th June