All images courtesy of and copyright Manuel Harlan
Our Deputy Editor James Wright has been to Theatr Clwyd again. This time, he went to see the theatre’s take on The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, a play written by Jim Cartwright which, in the past, has seen the big screen with Michael Caine in a starring role. So, Little Voice had some big shoes to fill. How did it fair?
I think I may have a new favourite performance.
It’s a tough call, though. When Theatr Clwyd played host to Rent last year it was, I was blown away. It holds a special place in my heart.
And whilst Rent was truly wonderful and wonderous, there was a distinct lack of Northern-ness going on, which Little Voice provides by the gallon full.
Set in a northern town in the 1980s, Little Voice (Rhyl’s own Catrin Aaron, one of the theatre’s most loved and gifted actresses) sits in her room all day, listening to her father’s vinyl collection. She escapes the noise and chaos of the real world and from her mother by listening to Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, and co.
However, Little Voice hides a big secret – the girl can sing like an operatic vocalist and can dub any voice in any style she wants…as long as she’s in the privacy of her own room, of course.
Downstairs, her mother (played by Nicola Reynolds, star of TV’s Ideal and Requiem) enjoys a drink in the morning, a cheeky visit to the local caff (a café to anyone south of Bolton), and flirting with any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Ray Say she could get her hands on.
Her latest squeeze, the aforementioned Ray Say (Colwyn Bay’s own Simon Holland Roberts, whom you may recognise from Coronation Street or even Shameless), is a local…entrepreneur in the local scene, with dreams of making it big in the showbiz. If only he could stumble across an undiscovered singer with a penchant for the classics and a voice that makes angels quiver.
Little Voice follows the struggles and successes – but mainly struggles – of a not-so-typical northern family living in a not-so-typical world, with enough charm and charisma to receive a standing ovation from a packed Anthony Hopkins auditorium.
There was laughter, clapping, oohs and aahs (as well as a fair few snorts from a lady sat behind us). I don’t think there was anyone in that room that did not enjoy this play.
Featuring one of the smartest uses of a stage I think I’ve ever seen, Little Voice conveyed a whole street worth of locations in and around two separate stages. The main focus of the stage was the front room-cum-kitchen, where mum Mari Hoff drinks, comes in from a night out, and answers her brand-new and eagerly awaited telephone. It’s also the scene of the greatest tragedy within the play, but I won’t spoil anything for you. We’ll just say, the second half is electrifying!
Above this scene, we find Little Voice’s bedroom, where we hear all the classic songs, and witness the birth of a star. It also plays home to the development of one of the sweetest love stories ever to grace a theatre as Little Voice and telephone repairman/light enthusiast Billy share a most awkward yet endearing relationship.
But, that’s not all on the staging. I did say it was one of the smartest stages I think I’ve seen in a while. When we’re not in Little Voice’s home, we pay a visit to the local nightclub “Mr Boo’s”. The kitchen/front room splits in two, and Little Voice’s bedroom rotates to become a glittery stage. The grand reveal garnered many an ooh and ahh from the audience.
Simple touches, but we like them. Bravo, Theatr Clwyd, bravo!
The nightclub is owned by, surprisingly enough, Mr Boo (the remarkably talented and uber funny Christian Patterson, whom Theatr Clwyd regulars may remember from the recent My Country performances). Mr Boo is the big-dog around town – a local entertainer whose tasked with making sure his club runs smooth, and woe betide anyone who stands him up, even the manager of a shy singer.
From start to dazzling finish The Rise and Fall of Little Voice was an enjoyable spree up-north with plenty of laughs, tears, and horrendous puns.
If you’re a fan of living, get yourself down to Theatr Clwyd, because this review will never do enough of a service to tell you just how good Little Voice is. Though, if you’re of a sensitive nature when it comes to swears – including the F-word – then do take care. We don’t want anyone being offended after all.
In the words of Mr Boo;
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is running until Saturday 28th October, with tickets available here.