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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice review at Barn Theatre, Cirencester – ‘a spectacular debut’

Sarah Louise Hughes in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at Barn Theatre, Cirencester. Photo: Benjamin Collins
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Cirencester’s newly opened Barn Theatre is really getting into its stride.  A powerfully performed revival Jim Cartwright’s classic marks the end of the theatre’s inaugural season.

The 1992 Jane Horrocks’ vehicle tells the story of reclusive Little Voice whose imitations of great singers get her picked up by a local club agent, and cause friction with her overbearing mother.

Michael Strassen’s production plays up the humour, but that doesn’t diminish the serious stuff – the themes of neglect, abuse, grief. There’s a brilliant contrast between the unceasing, wittering noise of LV’s mother Mari and the spectral LV, hiding silently in her bedroom.

Gillian McCafferty’s performance as Mari is spectacular. She just can’t let silence sit, instead filling it with nonsense and Cartwright’s wonderful language. At the beginning her brashness and openness about her many relationships is refreshing – it’s played for laughs. But it becomes clear how much that personality has trammelled down LV.

Around that brashness are little moments of proper loveliness, like when LV sings Over the Rainbow in her room and the taciturn Sadie, hearing it from downstairs, starts to cry.

Sarah Louise Hughes is making her professional debut as LV and, bloody hell, it bodes well. While her impressions of Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Shirley Bassey and others vary in their precision, her own voice is stunning, supported by a strong, shivering vibrato.

Like Little Voice herself, the exterior of the Barn Theatre may be small and unassuming, but in full flow it makes one hell of an impression.

Barn Theatre artistic director Iwan Lewis: ‘In the age of Netflix, theatre has to change its game’


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Brilliant, brash revival of Jim Cartwright’s play, that doesn’t diminish the darkness underneath