REVIEW: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

The cast celebrates Little Voice success .Sion Tudor Owen,Sean McKenzie Gurjeet Singh, Laura Crowhurst , Polly Lister, Serena Manteghi
The cast celebrates Little Voice success .Sion Tudor Owen,Sean McKenzie Gurjeet Singh, Laura Crowhurst , Polly Lister, Serena Manteghi

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice has come home – and what a homecoming it has received – cheers, tears and standing ovations.

Of course, Jim Cartwright’s original play was not set in Scarborough – but the film version was made here and that’s good enough for us.

It was a clever choice for Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director Paul Robinson to make it not only the first play he has directed for the Round (apart from the Christmas show) but to also put it as the first production of the summer season.

There is a natural affection for the piece – and that is something to build on.

Of course, that also depends on the quality of his production – and this is first class.

There is clever use of the Round – it is used in a multi-layered way complimenting the layers to this complex dark comedy.

The shadow of the film cast loom large – Jane Horrocks, Michael Caine, Brenda Blethyn, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent and Annette Badland were in the main roles .

The actors assembled for the stage version of the story of a young woman struggling to come to terms with the death of her father while dealing with her domineering mother work terrifically together.

Polly Lister as the monstrous Mari – who berates everyone and everything in her wake – is the dynamo that drives this play. It is a full-on, no-holes barred performance.

She goes at life like a prize-fighter – dishing it out, taking the knocks, getting back up again before taking a sucker punch that leaves her beaten and battered. Lister ensures we soak up the punches with her. She is staggeringly good as the woman trying her hardest not to go quietly into any night – or day.

In contrast is LV – her mousey daughter who hides a talent for mimicking singers like Garland, Monroe and Bassey.

Serena Manteghi says as much with a frown, smile or grimace as Mari does with a torrent of words.

The relationship with Billy, played with an equally quiet tenderness by Gurjeet Singh – is beautiful. His passion for lights and lighting reflects LV’s for the singers her dad loved so much.

Of course, the audience was waiting to see if Manteghi can sing like Bassey and Garland. And she can.

Her moment in the spotlight as these divas – plus Julie Andrews, Dolly Parton and Gracie Fields – left the audience begging for more.

Also using her facial expressions to speak volumes was Laura Crowhurst as Mari’s mate Sadie. She broke hearts with the look of hurt when Mari turns on her.

Ducking and diving as talent scout Ray Say was Sean McKenzie who invested the part played by Caine in the film with more heart, attractiveness and dimension. He wanted LV to do well for her own sake as well as his.

Sion Tudor Owen completes the cast as Mr Boo – he’s hilarious as a stand-up/MC who could not be funny if he swallowed Bob Monkhouse’s joke book.

The play is about many things – family, love, ambition, finding your own voice among them.

The piece is frantic and loud, sombre and silent, funny and tragic.

It is a whirl of raw emotions – in the Round there is nowhere for actors or audience to hide – you have to meet it all head on.

It leaves you reeling – and yet full of song.

If this is a taste of things to come from Robinson and the Stephen Joseph Theatre things will get better and better.

It runs in repertory until August 19.

Tickets: on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com