Monday, 20 April 2015

The Rise & Fall of Little Voice @ The King's Arms, Salford, 15.04.2015

The King's Arms is synonymous with theatre in Manchester (even though it is in Salford), and I have seen a number of small but brilliant productions there. I have also seen some pretty poor ones too, but that is part of what keeps fringe so interesting. The Rise & Fall of Little Voice though is something different, unlike anything I have seen in this space before.

For a start, the staging is far grander, split over two levels and with a feel of permanence. Time, effort and money have clearly been invested. The lighting and sound are also at a level of sophistication beyond what is normally attempted here - it looks and sounds like professional theatre.

But we'll come back to that; let's talk about the play itself. Written by Jim Cartwright, it is a tale of a small girl with a big vocal talent, who is forced onto the stage by a money-grabbing mother and her wannabe business tycoon boyfriend. As Little Voice's career builds so do her problems until, inevitably, everyone gets burnt.

The key element for Rise & Fall of Little Voice is casting someone who can really sing and, in Josie Cerise, they have done just that. On top of her vocal talent she also brought charisma to the role, shining in her moments on stage and drawing you into her solitude off it. In fact, this production has well-cast written all over it, with every actor in a role that showcased their numerous strengths.

So, back to that staging. What troubled me at first was that this show seemed to be focussing its efforts on high production values, trying to be like The Exchange or HOME. The ticket prices (£12) are also much closer to what you might get at those venues. It felt a bit like it was shunning what the King's Arms does best, which is putting on simple productions with plenty of charm and character.

On reflection I can see that I was wrong to think this. Just because this show places an emphasis on staging and is a little more expensive doesn't mean that everything in this space will follow this model. And, regardless of production values, the performances in Little Voice were brilliant and the direction from James Baker accomplished.

In fact, The Rise & Fall of Little Voice team did exactly what fringe producers are supposed to do: they tried something different. What's more they succeeded, creating a really memorable show that demonstrates just what can be achieved on a smaller stage.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Image: Courtesy of Assembled Junk

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