The Rise and Fall of Little Voice - review
Dundee Rep take on Jim Cartwright's play steps out of original's shadow
Jim Cartwright’s 1992 play about a painfully shy girl who seeks refuge in – and displays an uncanny talent for mimicking – the voices of the great musical divas loved by her father, was created as a vehicle for the unique talents of actress Jane Horrocks. However, Dundee Rep’s revival, with newcomer Helen Darbyshire in the lead, successfully shrugs off the shadow of its auspicious forebear.
Director Jemima Levick has wisely based the show’s musical set pieces around the songs that best suit Darbyshire’s vocal range. Where Horrocks channelled Bassey, Garland, Dietrich and Springfield, Dundee’s Little Voice does a mean Peggy Lee and Dolly Parton. Otherwise the production sticks closely to the play’s original setting of working class north of England in the 1980s, focusing on the gradually shifting power dynamic between Irene MacDougall’s selfish, alcoholic mother Mari Hoff and her reclusive daughter Laura/LV.
Cartwright’s script, with its disarming mix of humour and toughness, is enhanced by the powerful performances. Darbyshire is impressive in the tricky central role while MacDougall evokes the right mix of abhorrence and sympathy as Mari. And Emily Winter – whose most recent role at the Rep was as the child-like Nora in A Doll’s House – is unrecognisable as Mari’s taciturn best mate, Sadie May.
Dundee Rep, until Sat 19 Mar