Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Little voice that deserves to be heard

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


LITTLE VOICE, indeed, but this is a production that deserves a big voice to broadcast its excellence. 

Director Dexter Whitehead has welded an accomplished cast into a unit that doesn't put a foot wrong.

Yes, there are protracted periods between some of the scenes, but this is not down to the players. They have to change costumes and scenery has to be shifted. It would be churlish to complain on an evening of magical theatre. 

Kate Rock is the eponymous Little Voice, otherwise known as LV – the girl who has withdrawn into her shell, the only company she wants being the scores of records that her father left when he died. She plays them and she sings along with them, seeking to conjure the voices of the original artistes. It is only through them that she comes alive. 

This is a performance calculated to skewer you as you sit – particularly when, finally brave enough to face the world, she shimmers in a floor-length dress of gold and sings number after number with pleasing accomplishment in what becomes stop-the-show time. But for most of the action that Jim Cartwright has penned, she is the girl who won't go out, the one who is afraid of the world outside, the one who simply wants her music. 


She hides behind an expression of defensive serenity that is not breached until a pushy agent – splendidly played by Ian Eaton – manages to get her up on stage; where she eventually unleashes a lovely voice and where her coming is heralded by Mr Boo, the exuberant compère portrayed by the hard-working Roger Shepherd. 

But it is Billy, the telephone engineer whose hobby is playing with lights and creating displays with them, who understands her and helps her to face her demons. Timothy Gough explores the gentleness of the character in an appealing performance. 

LV has not had help like this before. She has mostly been harangued by Mari, oHHHher harridan mother – a superb, screeching, high-heeled, short-skirted, sex-obsessed siren whose decibel output must surely prompt the odd anxiety about whether Michelle Jennings's voice is going to survive a nine-night run in which she is on the stage for a great deal of time. 

We see Sadie (Aimée Hall) far less, but we fall for the sheer simplicity of this girl who tends to say “OK” all the time, except that she pronounces it Or Kair as she lumbers about her business with kindly intent and an uncomprehending expression. 

Martin Groves, who has produced the play and worked on building the set, has also found time for a cameo role as the telephone engineer. 

It's an absorbing joy. To 23.07.11.

John Slim 

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