Little Voice, The Dukes, Lancaster
In the years since Jim Cartwight created this showcase for actress Jane Horrocks, the likes of Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor have rather dulled the novelty of talent being discovered in the most unlikely of places – and the toll that exposure can take.
Granted the previously reclusive Susan Boyle eventually survived the spotlight and ironically Diane Vickers went on to receive rave reviews for her portrayal of this play’s excruciatingly shy central character but time has not been kind to a work which once seemed so shocking.
It is not the most obvious choice for a revival but it is a still a splendid showcase for any leading lady. The Horrocks/Vickers legacy is a difficult one to follow but Rebecca Hutchinson captures the vulnerability of a girl whose main communication with the world is through her startling impressions of the divas she has spent her life privately listening to on the records bequeathed by her late father.
It would be too much to ask that she could also recreate those voices but she makes a decent stab at it without actually catching the character’s short lived on-stage charisma.
Eithne Brown on the other hand is faultless as the drunk and dissolute mother Mari Hoff – bitter at the onset of age and the dearth of opportunities life has dished her. Likewise after an initial overdose of sleaziness Keiran Flynn captures the desperation of Ray Say, the failed performer turned small time agent who feels he has stumbled on a rare chance of representing more than no hopers.
Mitesi Soni is fine as Little Voice’s equally shy and obsessive suitor Billy, Sue McCormick wrings good comic timing from overweight neighbour Sadie and Peter Rylands has done his homework as club owner Mr Boo.
Director Amy Leach could do to tweak the pace a little in a production which feels all of its 150 minutes.