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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at York Theatre Royal

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, written by Jim Cartwright in 1992 and today directed by Bronagh Lagan, returned to the York Theatre Royal on its 2022 tour from July 4 – July 9 starring Shobna Gulati (Coronation Street, Dinnerladies, Loose Women) and Ian Kelsey (Emmerdale, Casualty) with Christina Bianco leading the way with her fantastic voice.

The show is an Olivier Award-Winning comedy-drama and has earned international acclaim across the globe. To say the least, Little Voice has been heard loud and clear!

Christina Bianco as Little Voice. Photo credit : Pamela Raith

This Northern fairytale follows mother and daughter, Mari Hoff and Little Voice (affectionately known as LV), as they navigate their rocky relationship, small-town life, and LV’s self-soothing talent for impressions of musical stars such as Barbra Streisand, Edith Piaf and Shirley Bassey (to name a few!). When this talent is discovered by Mari’s current fling Ray Say, a small-time club owner and self-proclaimed music manager, LV is thrust into the spotlight. Gulati does an excellent job of driving the drama by embodying the overbearing and insecure woman grappling for attention, a largely insufferable character that adds a corny element to the comedy. Bianco, ‘the girl of a thousand voices’ and a two-time Drama Desk Award Nominee, stunned the audience with her numerous renditions of powerhouse ballads – it was as though Barbra Streisand was on the stage herself. Amongst many musical numbers, this timeless tale and its flambouyant characters took the crowd from laughter to tears, as LV worked to find her voice in a noisy world full of family drama, fame, and romance.

Shobna Gulati and Ian Kelsey as Mari Hoff and Ray Say. Photo credit : Pamela Raith

Beyond the amazing actors and emotional script, the set hosted the narrative beautifully. The audience were given a doll-house style view of Mari and LV’s home, getting to know the characters even when they were in different rooms and not necessarily the focal point of every scene. This excellent set-up highlighted how Mari and LV were so different in nature, viewing their home from drastically different stances, whilst also demonstrating how intertwined the charcters’ lives were. 

At home with the Hoff family. Photo credit : Pamela Raith

Whilst reviews have critiqued the show for dating badly, the small cast did well to propel the drama forwards and draw many laughs from the audience. Though it would be interesting to see an updated version of the script, reflecting the same trials but in the modern day where the internet is much more prevalent and our idea of fame within society has thus been drastically altered. Would LV be the same if she was able to share her voice with the world from behind the screen?