The final show to be staged at this incarnation of the Union Theatre, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice by Jim Cartwright is a truly quality production that showcases a fine array of talent in a quirky and interesting Southwark theatre.
Concerning the tale of a young talented mimic and singer, LV (Carly Thoms), this play deals with themes of isolation and loneliness as LV struggles to overcome her own inhibitions and her repugnant and self-interested mother Mari (Charlotte Gorton). Both Thoms and Gorton are magnificent in the roles, and are ably supported by Ken Christiansen as Mari’s sleazy talent agent and fling Ray Say; Mandy Dassa as vacant neighbour Sadie; Glenn Adamson as love interest Billy; and James Peake as the shady Mr Boo. The casting in this production is spot-on, and I was particularly impressed with Thoms. The Spotlight breakdown for role must have read something like: “Talented actress and singer required who is able to perfectly mimic both singing and speaking voices of famous divas including but not limited to Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and Cilla Black.” Now that is a needle in a haystack. Gorton and Christiansen et al. inject perfectly timed comedy in betwixt these bouts of ‘tonight Matthew’, and create a show that is heart-warming, funny and a joy to watch.
Production values throughout The Rise and Fall of Little Voice are high. It is staged in the round with walkways in each corner for the actors’ entrances and exits and some interesting uses of the theatre’s supporting metal beams and forty or so lights. I also quite like the utilisation of record static to denote the end of a scene. It is not exactly ground-breaking sound work, but I like the way it bookends and breaks up the action of each segment of the play. It reminds me somewhat of an American sitcom. Appropriate considering the lounge and kitchen setting of the first half.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a triumphant conclusion to the Union Theatre. After this show ends they will be moving over the road under two railway arches as opposed to the current one. The CGI designs for the new theatre printed in the programme look phenomenal, but I sincerely hope that they manage to recreate the endearing shabby vintage chic that the Union currently pulls off so well, as you so rarely witness it used successfully outside the depths of Shoreditch. This is an excellent show, and one that you should see while you have the chance.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is playing at the Union Theatre until 26 June. For more information and tickets, see the Union Theatre website.