The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – Lane Cove Theatre Company back by popular demand. (Theatre Review)

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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Lane Cove Theatre Company

New Theatre Newtown – buy tickets here. 

Thu – Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm
Final performance, Sat 24 May 5pm

A girl who can only speak in the voice of others as she communicates with her dead father and a woman who never shuts up and says nothing, is only the start of the irony that makes up the world of Jim Cartwright’s Play, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, a play about people who place their hopes on the shoulders of someone else only to have them almost certainly dashed on the shores of reality. Set in working class Northern England, where chances are few and misery abundant, everything changes in the world of LV and Mari when they imagine they’ve each found their way over the rainbow into happier times.

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LV (Debbie Neilson) and her very loud, very trashy mother Mari (Wendy Morton) eek out an existence alone each suffering in their own way in the wake of the death of LV’s father. Mari, a woman who doesn’t know how to keep fresh food in the house, is on the hunt for a man to replace her dead husband. LV just sits in her room, listening to his records and dreaming of how much he used to love her. Both women’s chance for something better arrives when two men turn up to install a telephone in the house. Mari is now connected to the world, and can be phoned by any man she happens to pick up, and LV meets Billy (Luke Reeves) who not only installs the phone, but developes a crush on LV and brings the possibility of a world of love after the death of her Father. However, when Mari starts to date B-grade talent scout and manager Ray Say (Nick Bolton), and brings him home in the hope of building a relationship, Ray hears LV performing the most flawless impersonations as an homage to her father, and decides to sign LV up as his latest act.

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Jim Cartwright’s play depends on two primary performances, that of Mari who gets the bulk of the dialogue and the best lines in the play and the role of LV who performs all her own impersonations. If you are able to get these two performances right the rest of the play falls into place behind them. The casting of Debbie Neilson is perfect as she has the youth, the innocence and most of all the voice to carry off the difficult and flawless impersonations that give Little Voice her chance at stardom. However, as skilled and clever as Neilson is, in many ways the Lane Cove Theatre Companies version of  The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is Wendy Morton’s show as she puts in as fine a performance as any of the great actresses who have played Mari in the last ten years. Despite the importance of Neilson’s performance, Morton carries the bulk of the production on her shoulders and never does she falter in her excellent delivery of Mari’s lines, and instead creates something darker and more complex than the overtly grotesque caricature of the fading Northern English beauty that Mari represents. Mari is impossibly poor, devastatingly poor. When we meet her she is having a telephone connected in her disheveled flat. She doesn’t work, but rather dresses in tight spandex leopard print in an effort to try to draw a man into her life. But she is old, far too old to be playing that sort of game, far too old to be pushing for the kinds of men she is trying to attract. Morton’s Mari is a blind and careless woman, a silly little girl in a fading woman’s body. Other manifestations of the character paint her as abusive and aggressive, but Morton, clearly sympathetic to the impoverished Mari, plays her as an unconcious selfish child, unable to see the wood for the trees until the great tragedy at the end of the play. In this evocation, Mari is a sympathetic character, eve as she is equally a grotesque.

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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a Lane Cove Theatre Company Production, brought to the New Theatre in Newtown for a second run back by popular demand. The production looks a little out of place on the largeness of the New Theatre stage at times, but still, this is a good opportunity to see the Jim Cartwright play well performed if you’re able to get there. The rest of the cast does a great job, with Nick Bolton a sleazy but ultimately well meaning Ray Say, Kevin Weir as Mr Boo, Michelle Belamay as the beleaguered Sadie, Mark Reiss as the telephone man and Luke Reeves is a very funny Billy with his warm but rather creepy constant arrivals at LV’s bedroom window. Cast and crew alike put together a strong and believable world of white trash England, that is easily transferable to our own club cabaret world. This is a warm, fun and relaxing night at the theatre if you get the chance to see it.

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