The Rise and Fall of Little Voice next up for Pemads

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Bob Eveleigh writes: The Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society (Pemads) will present the British hit, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, in the Little Theatre in August.
It will run from Wednesday to Saturday (excluding Sunday), August 15 to 25.

PE amateur theatre director Lesley Barnard with her daughter Gemma in The Tempest.
PE amateur theatre director Lesley Barnard with her daughter Gemma in The Tempest.

The play will be directed by regular Woodlands Dairy Showtime Award-winning actress and director, Lesley Barnard, and will star a strong line-up of leads with Lesley’s daughter Gemma Barnard in the title role, Yolande Farrow, Gareth Bain and Bennie Gerber, all past Woodlands Dairy Showtime Award acting recipients.

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Supporting them will be three further award-winners in Tim Collier, Jamie-lee Reynolds and Mark Farrow (in a small cameo but also as master set-builder).

The play was written by English dramatist Jim Cartwright, who has his own roots in a Northern English town which is where the play is set in the late 1980s.

It opened in 1992, directed by Sam Mendes, with a premiere at The Royal National Theatre with Jane Horrocks, best known to most South Africans from her role in the TV series, Absolutely Fabulous, as Little Voice, and, a year later, won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy.

It enjoyed a successful revival in 2009 with Diane Vickers (X-Factor UK) in the lead as LV.

It was adapted for the big screen in 1998, with the title shortened to “Little Voice” but again starred Jane Horrocks as LV, with Brenda Blethyn as Mari Hoff (nominated for an Academy Award as Best supporting Actress for the role), Michael Caine as Ray Say, Jim Broadbent as Mr Boo and Ewan McGregor as Billy.

But the two versions should not be compared as Jim Cartwright did not write the screenplay for the film and the play is more equally balanced as a genuine ensemble piece with darker moments than the film.

Athough boasting a fine cast, it is considered that the film did not approach the quality of the play, with its characters more truly related to the characters and playwright’s Northern roots.

The plot deals with a shy, reclusive girl named Little Voice and her larger than life, out of control mother Mari.

Desperately missing her dead father, Little Voice spends her time locked in her bedroom listening to his old record collection and perfecting astonishing vocal singing impersonations of such famous divas including Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Dusty Springfield – differing stage versions have featured different stars, dependent on the actresses playing the lead, with the film focusing mainly on Judy Garland.

When Mari starts dating small-time club agent Ray Say, she thinks he’s her last chance for a better life. When Ray hears Little Voice sing, he thinks she’s his ticket to the big time. Little Voice just wants a normal life and to be loved.

But not everyone is going to get what they want!

This play is part fairytale, as audiences root for LV to be rescued by the boy who loves her, Billy; part Greek tragedy, in the relationship between LV and Mari; but also a triumph as LV finds her own voice.

It’s a genuine British smash success which should have major all-around audience appeal for Pemads after the very different punch of Rent, which rather eluded the older PE theatregoers.

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