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8th June 2022

Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Lowry, starring Shobna Gulati, Ian Kelsey, and Christina Bianco
Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
Christina Bianco. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.

I’m not sure exactly what to make of this play. The first act was a riot; the second a mixed bag. It’s an Olivier Award-winning play, adapted into a film that won Michael Caine a Golden Globe, and the press night audience loved it. Perhaps it’s just me.

It’s not that the second act was bad. In fact, there were lots of positives. I liked the poetic ending, with LV finally finding her voice – her own voice – in the now-empty club.

Christina Bianco, Ian Kelsey and Shobna Gulati. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.

The play is unbelievably funny. The whole audience was in hysterics. It’s both well-written and well-acted. Shobna Gulati – best-known for Coronation Street, but is also known for Coronation Street, Dinnerladies, Doctor Who, Doctors, In the Club, Loose Women and Where the Heart Is – was the star of the show. She was exceptional as the unlikeable, troubled Mari (LV’s mother). Gulati proved herself as a terrific comedic force in the stage musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – the last show she starred in at the Lowry – and its film adaptation.

Fiona Mulvaney also received a barrel of laughs as the slow, sympathetic Sadie – perhaps the play’s most likeable character.

Praise must also be given to Gulati’s Corrie and Doctors co-star, Ian Kelsey (also known for fellow soaps Casualty and Emmerdale, and dramas Blue Murder and Down to Earth) who was pretty likeable as the smarmy Ray – until that “twist”. It’s not easy playing a character made famous by Michael Caine – especially not one that won him a Golden Globe!

The supporting cast were good. William Ilkley was funny as the unfunny Mr. Boo. Akshay Gulati played Billy, one of the play’s only genuine characters – but the role was not sufficient enough to showcase his talent.

Christina Bianco. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.

LV was played by Christina Bianco – one of the world’s leading impressionists. I had previously seen Gulati in Jamie, and it was great to see her again, but perhaps my main reason for wanting to see this play was to finally see Bianco!

In all honesty, I found LV to be pretty annoying – made worse by that irritating accent. At times, she really got on my nerves. It’s always interesting when a play/film/etc.’s main character (or protagonist) is a little unlikeable (that’s if LV is actually supposed to be a little unlikeable).

Still, Bianco’s vocal talent cannot be denied. Her impressions are next-to-none and seeing her imitate everyone from Shirley Bassey to Marilyn Monroe was a real joy.

Christina Bianco. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.

The second act began with what was essentially a Bianco showcase, before taking a dark turn. LV’s near-flawless breakdown was reminiscent of ‘Rose’s Turn’ (Gypsy). She hopped from impression to impression, like a robot breaking down. She was not prepared to be Ray’s Stepford daughter anymore.

This contrasted well with Mari’s messy, manic breakdown. Mari and LV might be mother and daughter, but they could not be more different. Mari is a terrible mother, yet Gulati had me feeling sorry for her and wondering what happened in her life to make her such a cold-hearted, callous cow.

The cast of Little Voice. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.

Designer Sara Perks deserves great praise for her spectacular set. We walked into the auditorium to see a house onstage – the inside of part of a house, which looked like it had been cut off the rest of the house, complete with crumbling walls. It was reminiscent of the open house in Home, I’m Darling – though that house looked more like an open doll’s house than a house split in two.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is undoubtedly an interesting play, even though the second act began to drag – even so, the second act was intriguing. It’s not a play I plan to see again, but I’m glad I saw it – even if it did not hit the right note (pardon the pun).

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice plays at the Lowry (Quays Theatre) until 11th June, touring the UK until mid-July.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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