The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is an unmissable experience, offering a production which is unusually complex for Cambridge Theatre.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a 1992 stage play which enjoyed a famous 1998 film adaptation starring Ewan McGregor and several West End Revivals, the most recent of which featured Diana Vickers in the titular role. As such, you might expect that it would hold a certain degree of recognition, or that there would be a palpable fervour around its staging at the ADC. Little Voice seems, however, to have been hitherto fairly anonymous to its Cambridge audience; a blessing for its audience who get to experience its delights for the first time, but an uphill battle, no doubt, for its dedicated crew who have to sell a show that is so difficult to package into a set of accessible labels.
It is not a ‘musical’ in the traditional sense, though music is the central theme and motif, and the main character, ‘Little Voice’ herself, must execute a powerful vocal performance that is the very furthest thing from ‘little’. Set in a neglected Northern town, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice follows the grieving process of its titular character, as she copes with the loss of her father through their shared love of this central musical medium. Through her obsession with the collection of the records of some of the 20th Century’s most iconic female performers, she finds herself able to mimic these vocal performances, much to the excitement of her mother’s sleazy talent-managing boyfriend ‘Ray Say’.
The story that follows is tragic, if a little predictable. Exploited by Ray, Little Voice enjoys a meteoric rise to success, at the expense of her own identity and personal relationships. Connor Rowlett is a little one-note here as Ray, but his evident manipulation is masterfully handled. Harriet Wilton shines as Mari, giving the highest-energy performance of the show and nailing the carefully nuanced portrayal of a woman clinging to her prime. Helena Fox and Lucy Green put in solid performances as Mr Boo and Sadie respectively, and provide some excellent comic relief.
The real scene stealers, however, are Lydia Clay-White as Little Voice, and Charlie Morrell-Brown as Billy, the shy telephone repair boy who falls for her. Their tender romance is the most heartwarming and delightful subplot of the show, and the sweet energy they each exude as these shy characters is performed to perfection, never becoming dull as it might have been from different actors.
Ultimately, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice was not the most polished production (although still very well-put together on its opening night!), but it is the most ambitious show I have ever seen at the ADC. From the two-story set to the pyrotechnics involved in the show’s climactic scene, the show’s director (Georgina Deri) and Producer (Rebecca Mayer) did not set themselves up for an easy task. This show is both funny and heartwarming, and so complex that we are unlikely to see its like at the ADC again in a long time. Whatever its flaws, this show should be seen.