Shy girl is rising star

Jess Robinson
Jess Robinson


Congress Theatre, Eastbourne.

In this new production of the award-winning musical play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice by Jim Cartwright the author also directs the play for the first time.

It tells the story of shy autistic agrophobic Laura Hoff who has been nicknamed Little Voice, LV for short, by her hard-drinking mother Mari. LV spends all her time in her bedroom listening to records by Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey and other popular singers of that era left to her by her late father.

She has developed an outstanding talent for mimicry and when she is not listening to the records she is singing the songs in the voice of the artists. When Mari starts dating talent agent Ray Say he spots her potential for making him money and books her to sing at a local nightclub.

This new tour sets the scene before the play starts by transporting the audience to a Wigan Working Mens Club around the 1970s. Raffle tickets are issued to the audience and they are entertained by a tap dancing act and a female impersonator of George Formby.

When the play switches to Mari’s home we are faced with Morgan Large’s two-tier set with Mari’s lounge and kitchen below and LV’s bedroom above.

Beverley Callard (from Coronation Street) is brilliant as Mari, the part could have been written for her and Philip Andrew is well cast as her agent boyfriend Ray Say. Ray Quinn is also very good as the young telephone engineer who falls for the shy LV.

But the evening has to belong to Jess Robinson a rising star in the field of TV comedy. She is outstanding as the shy girl who blossoms into a nightclub singer.

This is a strange production as the audience are involved right through. In the interval the scene reverts back to the club and everyone is invited to play bingo.

The special effect of the fire which destroys LV’s precious records is very realistic and this is definitely an evening of theatre to be enjoyed.

Amanda Wilkins