(4 / 5)
As a critic I am not technically minded, I view a play and my mind will automatically focus on the acting ability of the cast , as my background is in performing. However it would be impossible not to be blown away by the genius set design and the technicality of this production.
Using a revolving room on a split level, and a dividing floor the design by Amy Jane Cook easily managed to give the illusion of an open dolls house. (If the dolls house was a northern council house with poor electrics and bad house keeping!) This enabled the lounge, kitchen diner and bedroom all to be in full view of the audience. With swift transitions the bedroom revolved, the living room divided and the set transformed to Mr Boo’s night club. The first transition took place just after the beginning of the second half and was met with suitable gasps of awe from the impressed full house.
It would be rude not to give credit to the lighting design, by Nicholas Holdridge although naturalistic in nature a majority of the play took place in dimly lit rooms and at one point darkness. However the clever use of street, moon, dawn and torch light ensured the actors were always well lit and the tone and atmosphere were heightened. This combination of stage and technical magic combine in the final stages of the production, not wanting to spoil the effect -Theatre Clwyd’s production does stay true to the film and they do so very effectively. A combination of smoke, lights movement and LV’s impressions as she reaches breaking point culminates to an intense stage experience.
The cast were as impressive as the set, comic timing, physicality and delivery were strong. Each member of the small ensemble allowed each other to have stand out moments as well as ensuring they all worked well together to perform some very funny dialogue, comedic banter and duets. (watch out for Nicola Reynolds, Mari Hoff, LV’s mum and the brilliant Victoria John, Sadie, the down beaten neighbour performing “It’s Raining Men”)
This play can only work if LV can actually deliver the impressions stated – ergo this play works. It has been stated on social media that when Catrin Aaron sings its like Judy Garland is in the room. I fully agree – except Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and a host of others are there with her.
I was slightly disappointed with some of the direction of the play, continuity of stage exits occasionally seemed haphazard – this could be due to them being sacrificed for the technicality of the production – in which case I can forgive the occasions when walls are walked through – however towards the end of the play it felt like the cast had forgotten where doors were and they were just walking wherever!
Jim Cartwright’s script is undoubtedly witty and gritty and is supposed to be full of hilarity and vulgarity, however, I was waiting for the all important point when I would feel empathy with the characters, for me, it didn’t happen. I put this down to the direction of Wasserberg rather than the acting ability of the cast. It was played for laughs and in doing so the characters became more caricatures – that although I laughed with, I never fully connected with.
Other than this, it was a pleasure to watch, strong female leads and the standing ovation was justly deserved. Little Voice hits the right notes.
Theatre Clwyd, Antony Hopkins Theatre,Tuesday 10th October . Directed by Kate Wasserberg
(4 / 5)
“Director Kate Wasserberg masterfully merges the humorous with the harrowing in Theatr Clwyd’s current revival of Cartwright’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.”
The script itself – scathingly raw and rife with a complex combination of dark humour and revolting sexual innuendoes, though nevertheless appealing and often rich with tenderness and sentimentality – is conveyed with tremendous sensitivity by each performer. So much so that each of the actors – all brilliant – all awe-inspiring, perform with such a natural truthfulness, that I remain wholly entranced by each throughout this production.
The set was intricate and intriguing – with the placement of LV’s personal space and the remainder of the house distinctly separate and isolated. Impressively, the mere house was swiftly transformed into a spectacular nightclub.
However, it is Nicola Reynold’s performance as Mari, which was, above all else, an afflicting depiction of vulgarity and vulnerability. Initially, I deplored Mari’s neglectful and resentful attitude towards her daughter, but her gradual deterioration and eventual breakdown left me empathetic and with an aching heart. Though, sometimes I felt her performance to be too intensely revolting.
The character of Billy, though perhaps not the most significant character of the play, this particular interpretation shines with an awkward charm and perfect like-ability.
Though, undoubtedly, it was Catrin Aaron’s LV, arguably echoing the brilliance of Jane Horrock’s earlier performance of the same character that demanded recognition for its exceptional, glorious splendour. Shifting effortlessly from meek to magnificent, with impersonations that could quite truly be mistaken for the voices of Garland, Monroe and Piaf.
The production plays until the end of October at Theatre Clwyd.