Theatre review - The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Theatre by the Lake
PUBLISHED: 10:38 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:16 10 June 2019
The latest main house production at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) is Jim Cartwright's brilliant tale of Little Voice (known as LV), the girl who doesn't say much but sings impersonating a range of famous singers.
Just as Little Voice is 'discovered' in the play, so is the actor who plays her, Georgina Ambrey, who is fresh out of acting school. And just like the character, Ambrey is superb, a talent that couldn't help being found - she radiates on stage.
Noticing her at all is no easy task. Firstly, the stage itself demands attention. The design and use of the scenery is one of the best I've seen at TBTL (and I've seen some amazing sets). The second act had us all going 'wow' at one point. Hats off to designer Louie Whitemore.
Then comes Emily Pithon playing the incompetent but hilarious Mari Hoff, LV's mother. Pithon was just about my favourite from 'My Mother Said I Never Should', in which Georgina Ambrey also stars, but it was a close-run thing as all four cast members are so strong. Here though, Pithon's comic abilities are superlative. She has the lines, she has the body language, and she has the timing when it comes to moments of slapstick.
And there's Eric Potts, playing the larger-than-life Mr Boo. Potts was my favourite from 'The Ladykillers' and I was waiting to see what he did with 'Little voice'. Although his part is small, this actor was perfectly matched to play the club owner and host. Breaking through the fourth wall, for a while we stopped being at the theatre and became a comedy club audience instead. Genuine belly laughs ensued.
So why was young Georgina Ambrey so important compared to all this? Because she was utterly convincing as a young, desperately fragile girl, broken after the death of her beloved father, finding a coping strategy in singing his precious records and bullied into becoming a star. More than this, the role of LV requires not just a good singer but an impersonator too. Despite having never tried to do impersonations before, Ambrey has proven a natural. From Judy Garland to Shirley Bassey and even an hilarious Marlene Dietrich along the way, this actor was faultless. I'd say she was made for the role if it wasn't for the fact I've seen her in 'My Mother Said I Never Should' and she was just as good in an entirely different role. This multi-talented actor is one to watch for the future, for sure.
Although there's still another three productions yet to begin for the TBTL summer run, I suspect 'The Rise and Fall of Little Voice' may well be the hit play of the season. That's no surprise - Jim Cartwright is, for my money, one of the best playwrights around. He combines comedy with empathy cutting to the heart of problems very real for today's audiences. His plays are unfailingly fresh, hopeful and good for the soul.
'The Rise and Fall of Little Voice' is showing at Theatre by the Lake's main stage until 1 November. To find out more call the Box Office on 017687 74411 or visit www.theatrebythelake.com.