Belting it Out: Review of Lane Cove Theatre Company’s Little Voice

by theatrebloggers


The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (1992) by Jim Cartwright is a curious little play. Although it probably isn’t an instantly recognizable title, the play has enjoyed a certain level of prestige since its first staging – Broadway and West End runs, a film adaptation as well as claiming the Lawrence Olivier Award for best new comedy in 1993.

The play’s eponymous hero, Little Voice (LV), is a shy and retiring young girl who spends her days locked up in her room playing her late father’s old vinyl collection over and over. Her mother, Mari, is in every way her opposite: loud, crass and domineering. She bangs on the roof whenever LV plays her music, calls her a misery and is constantly on the prowl for a new husband. When she brings home her latest suitor, a manager of second rate acts from the local club, Ray Say, we hear Little Voice sing for the first time. She is able to almost perfectly imitate the voices of her favorite singers: Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and even Shirley Temple, (among others). Ray is instantly taken by her talent and sees her as his ticket to the big time. But when LV can hardly handle the outside world, the stage is set for conflict.

At heart, this is a play about finding the courage to live your own life. Little Voice suffers though as the people around her try to mould her into the image they have of her, whether that’s a dutiful daughter or budding starlet. But happiness cannot be found in someone else’s vision of your life; in the end, you have to sing with your own voice.

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Debbie Neilson soared as the timid Little Voice. Neilson performs with great integrity, which enabled her to stitch together otherwise unworkable polarities of the character. She is believable as this hopeless introvert and flawless when revealing that LV is a singing savant. However, it is Neilson’s actual mimicry that seals the deal – her phenomenal impressions of musical grande dames such as Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich make for a remarkable performance.

Another impressive performance came from Wendy Morton as Mari, LV’s desperately selfish and blowsy mother. Morton IS Edina from Ab Fab – complete with leopard print tights, glass of liquor and too much lacquer. She has a difficult job in that she carries the show both comedically and dramatically – she succeeds marvellously.

Nick Bolton took on the role of Ray Say – a lowlife talent agent.  Bolton, a Ricky Gervais look-a-like, plays this typical ‘use and abuse’ who’s true nature is shielded early on behind his gregarious persona. Bolton played his part with zeal and ironic lacklustre, complimenting Morton’s drunken and brazen Mari.

Michelle Bellamy played Sadie, the ‘one-word wonder’ best, and only, friend to Mari. Bellamy’s characterisation is best described a cross between Sharon from Kath and Kim and Hodor from Game of Thrones – she is very funny indeed. Luke Reeves puts in a heart-warming performance as Billy, LV’s shy soul mate and lighting enthusiast. Both Kevin Weir and Mark Reiss, as Mr Boo and the Phone man respectively, added fun and colour to the show. Overall it was a great cast, all of whom enjoyed their time on stage.

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This is a fine little play. Although the ending may be over-drawn, it doesn’t take away from the play’s primary charm: Neilson’s vocal performance. This production will round out with a large and supportive audience (it deserves nothing less). A full house will ensure that the evening is a barrel of laughs and well worth a night on the town.

Little Voice is playing at the New Theatre on King Street until the 24th of May. For more information see: