The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice

Like so many films made of plays it is easy to forget how much of the meat can be trimmed away. And you should note that I say meat and not fat. The stage version of “Little Voice” – (a little judicious trimming of my own there) is a far meatier and far more intense dish than the cinema version for sure.

And most of the trimming is of the role of Mari, so thank heavens that for this new touring production that role has been left in tact for the brilliant Shobna Gulati to sink her comedic teeth into. She certainly feasts on the comedy here but also brings an edge to the selfish wickedness of the booze soaked mother, stumbling, staggering and all but raping Ray Sey played here by Ian Kelsey with a skill and confidence.

Fiona Mulvaney is Sadie, the sad, silent and stupid sidekick to Mari, not a glamorous part for sure but one that she fully exploits for its humour and its tragedy, no one is safe from Mari for sure.

Billy is the gangly and gentle youth who falls for LV and Akshay Gulati is charmingly simple in his portrayal and William Ilkley has all the brash bluster of the northern club owner Mr Boo.

But the whole thing hangs around the skill of two actors, firstly Shobna Gulati who proves that she is more than up to this demanding and word heavy role, a brilliant performance. And secondly to the skill of the actor cast as the eponymous LV.

Christina Bianco is a comedy sensation in her own country America and equally loved online where her talents as a vocal impressionist are second to none, she can do them all. But this required her to embrace a character that barely speaks and that of an immature  adolescent from Lancashire (yes the film shifted the action east). Bianco does the role proud she is every diminutive inch LV, her diction and demeanour fragile until that little voice is given full range to blow the audience away, everyone from Cilla to Shirley in a bravura performance that sent shivers down the spine.

The story is pretty bleak, there is a sort of happy ending but the truth is that this play, despite its comedy, is a tragedy, one delivered with skill and with style, one that makes you laugh but also brings a tear to the eye and one that gives this cast the opportunity to really shine.

Andrew Kay

Theatre Royal Brighton

28 April

Rating: ★★★★☆

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