Sheridan Morley once remarked that future productions of Jim Cartwright’s 1992 play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice could never be viable without Jane Horrocks in the title role. Cartwright’s gritty showbusiness saga, however, has proven itself to be more resilient than a regurgitation of an impression of a series of impressions, particularly in recent years.
The USP of Tom Latter’s production is the casting of a real-life mother and daughter (the first such instance), Sally George and Rafaella Hutchinson, as the monstrous Mari and timid LV, a relationship of very little love and affection.
George’s Mari is vulgarity incarnate, all garish eyeshadow, miniskirts and tottering heels. She is particularly good capturing the character’s quite extraordinary linguistic dexterity, with her ability to turn any old phrase into a double entendre (she can make predictions using her vagina). Hutchinson is like a doll – wide-eyed and childlike – her singing more soulful and gently heart-tugging than offering spot-on impersonations.
They are well supported by Kevin McMonagle’s lecherously loathsome small-time agent Ray Say (a man who thinks it’s fine to talk to his one-night stand’s daughter with a bare chest), while Linford Johnson is all sweetness as the quietly smitten Billy.
Set in Jacob Hughes’s split-level grimy kitchen and attic retreat, the play perhaps doesn’t surprise in the way it did 25 years ago when it unleashed Horrocks’ singing abilities, but it retains its potency in its depiction of a disadvantaged young woman discovering her voice and performing for self expression, rather than cynical fame seeking.