The Rise and Fall of Little Voice Review

York Theatre Royal – until Saturday 9th July 2022

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


The Rise and Fall of Little Voice first hit the stage 30 years ago. Written by Jim Cartwright for the actress Jane Horrocks it has been hitting the boards periodically since then. Many will remember it more from the 1998 film starring the wonderful Horrocks. 2022 sees it back touring the UK with a brand new cast.

Little Voice (Christina Bianco), barely speaks and spends most of her time closeted up in her bedroom listening to her late father’s old albums. Whilst downstairs her mother, Mari (Shobna Gulati), a trashy, larger than life and alcoholic character, is more concerned with her new boyfriend, the sleazy Ray (Ian Kelsey) and the installation of her new phone. All Mari is interested in is men and booze, and Ray fulfils that criteria. Whilst Ray is visiting, LV is playing her albums as usual, but once the electricity shorts out and the music is still playing, he realises what a talent LV has and wants to use her to further his career. LV truly comes alive with her amazing voice, able to imitate all the greats, and is cajoled into performing for one night only at Mr Boos. All does not go smoothly and what follows is a story of disfunction, intimidation, exploitation, and innocence.

Bianco brings LV to life with her remarkable ability to mimic such iconic divas as Cilla Black, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, plus many more. During LV’s knockout second performance at Mr Boo’s, my friend and I were questioning whether Bianco was singing live, obviously she was, but the transitions between each artist were extraordinary, flitting from one vocal performance to another, amazing, what a talent.

Gulati shines as the garish, loud-mouthed Mari, who selfishly is only concerned about herself, using and abusing all those around her, including LV and her downtrodden, affable best friend, her only friend, Sadie (Fiona Mulvaney), though there are times of vulnerability. She really does own the stage, bringing energy, comedy and personability to her role.

Kelsey, as Ray, provides just about the right amount of sleaze to his character and the interaction with Gulati is truly believable. His dissent from the would-be promoter to the abuser as things fall apart, had the audience gasping out loud in shock.

The stage is utilised well, with a cut out house over two floors, concentrating on LV’s bedroom and the living room/kitchen downstairs. When Mr Boo’s club is depicted a curtain of tinsel and lights is lowered down, simple but effective.

This production is full of some fabulous comedic moments. Some of the funnier moments were quite dated and almost cringeworthy, but in truth they only added to the experience. This is a show with a solid cast that gel together to deliver a sometimes uncomfortable narrative, but also not letting go of that sweet innocence that is out there. Well worth a night out.