Tom Latter’s production of Jim Cartwright’s tragic comedy captures the sense of isolation between mother and daughter well and is a perfect reminder that we should all use our voices more. 

Rafaella Hutchinson in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at Park Theatre. Photo by Ali Wright-136
(c) Ali Wright

We have all got a part of ourselves that we keep private from the outside world – but in some cases it is a more dominant part of who a person is and can be used to keep the world out.

In this case, Little Voice is grieving desperately for her father and is consoling herself by locking herself away listening to his old records. Meanwhile,  her relationship with her mother Mari is increasingly difficult, particularly when Little Voice is forced out into the world against her will – leading to an explosive confrontation of grief, regret and facing the truth.

The beauty of Jim Cartwright’s script and story is the way it gradually moves away from the comedy into something darker and tragic to keep the audience engaged with Little Voice’s journey. In Tom Latter’s production, everything is handled with great sensitivity with regards to Little Voice’s severe shyness and her relationship with her bold and brash mother Mari – but can come across at times as trying too hard to make the comedy to shine out that doesn’t quite sit so easily alongside the serious side of the play, feeling less natural than it should.

On the other side of this, there are so many poignant moments that really do pack a punch throughout this strongly performed production – not least when Little Voice throws out a number of cultural references from films such as The Wizard of Oz to express her fear and terror at Ray, her mother’s sleazy boyfriend trying to make some money out of her. It is at points like these that the production is at its sharpest and rawest.

But it is also the way in which the contrast between real life mother and daughter Sally George (Mari) and Rafaella Hutchinson (Little Voice) capture their character’s conflicting personalities that makes for an extremely powerful climatic scene, as their anger, grief and (in Mari’s case) selfish regret that finally explodes. Sally George highlights Mari as a selfish, vulgar mother to some hilarious effect particularly in the opening scenes but soon is overtaken by desperation for a better life. George can be in danger of being of over the top with the brashness of her character but for the most part is in control.

Meanwhile, Rafaella Hutchinson makes for a lovely, understated Little Voice who audiences can really feel sympathy with. Even though initially she doesn’t have a lot to say, her expressions and mannerisms prove just how powerful saying nothing at all in scenes can be equally as powerful. Her husky but heartfelt vocals to songs such as ‘Over The Rainbow’ and ‘Moon River’ not only capture the beauty of the lyrics – but the sense of the character’s loneliness and isolation. A stand out moment is when she performs a huge variety of songs when dragged up to the stage, captured to mesmerising effect with the help of Matthew Cater’s gorgeously evocative lighting.

Elsewhere, Kevin McMonagle makes for a suitably sleazy Ray Say a character who is equally charming as he is threatening and Linford Johnson is sweet and charming as Billy.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is essentially a raw mother and daughter story that makes you want to laugh and cry in equal measures. This production just needs to stop trying so hard to make you laugh and let the comedy come through naturally to enhance the sadness of the core relationship at the centre of it.

By Emma Clarendon 

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice continues to play at the Park Theatre until the 15th September. For more information visit: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-rise-and-fall-of-little-voice

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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