Arundel Festival: Michaela is Little Voice's mum....

Michaela Cooke will be Brenda Blethyn to her husband Tom's Michael Caine as they take to the stage together for the first time in years.

Little Voice Ellie Earl & Michaela Cooke photo by Rosey Purchase
Little Voice Ellie Earl & Michaela Cooke photo by Rosey Purchase

The play, so famously a big-name film in 1998, is The Rise & Fall of Little Voice, the Arundel Players’ contribution to this year’s Arundel Festival.

The players are staging Jim Cartwright’s tale of despair, love and hope from Saturday, August 18-Saturday, August 25 at The Priory Playhouse, London Road, Arundel.

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Set in a small northern town, the play tells the tale of a shy, reclusive girl, nicknamed Little Voice (played by Ellie Earl) who lives with her larger-than-life mother, Mari (Michaela Cooke), whose sole purpose in life is to find another man.

Ellie misses her dead father, and Mari’s imposing presence drives Little Voice into seclusion. She spends most of her time in her room obsessively listening to her father’s old record collection of famous divas. Her hidden talent is that she can sing like just like them.

When small-time impresario Ray Say, (Tom) Mari’s latest catch, hears Little Voice’s faultless impersonations of the famous singers, he recognises the gold in her voice and is determined to exploit it.

“It is my first time with the Arundel Players,” Michaela said, “and it is such a great part to play. They fished out for us. They had not found the people that they were looking for, and they asked me to come and audition.

“I haven’t acted with Tom for a long time. We used to both be professional actors, and that’s how we met. We were on tour in Germany.

“But we had to give up acting professionally so that we could earn some money! The dream is postponed for the moment! I would love to get back to it professionally. I just need for some fabulous agent to come along and see the show and think that I am wonderful!”

For the moment, it’s simply good to be performing in her own accent for a change: “I am from Yorkshire, from Halifax, and this part was written for a generic northern person. It’s lovely to play my own accent. That hasn’t happened for a long time!

“But I love playing character parts, and she has got it all. She is funny and she is sad. She is quite horrible to her daughter, but at the same time Mari is also quite vulnerable and quite pathetic. She plays two different roles to her daughter. She is the matriarch, but she is also quite weak. She is also like a daughter to her daughter. She likes to drink and she likes to be adored, but the man she married didn’t adore her, and I think she got worn down by it.”

There is a lot of jealousy going on: “She hated the relationship that her husband had with LV, their love of the records. LV just sits in her bedroom listening to the records that her father played to her and she likes to sing them, but Mari thinks she is useless. She has got the most fabulous talent, and Ray can see it. Ray woos Mari to get to LV, and Mari mistakenly thinks that Ray really does love her… She is quite a pathetic character really. In the end, the house that has been badly wired burns down accidentally, and Mari stands in the middle of the burnt house saying ‘This is my soul that is being burnt down’, and she still isn’t even thinking about Little Voice…”

Performances start at 7.30pm from August 18 to 25. Tickets cost £14 and are available from the Box Office on 07523 417926. To book online visit