Little Voice is that rare kind of celebrity. So rare, in fact, that I’m not truly convinced that they actually exist. I am speaking, of course, of the reluctant celebrity.
Shy and withdrawn, Little Voice spends most of her time hidden away in her bedroom listening to old records left behind by her deceased father. Her mother is a hopeless drunk and she has not a single friend to speak of but the reassuring tones of her stereo. But a remarkable gift for imitation finds the ear of talent scout, Ray Say, and the bright lights are forced upon her. Gracie Fields, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe…they’re all here. But what of her one true voice?
Though the show is not quite as depressing as the above description might make out, there is a tragedy within Little Voice that retains a sober mind. The tunes are joyous and performed with a bouncy, even comedic, quality. But there is always a darkness floating thick in the air, with even songs of love holding a haunting purpose.
The performances are all good, if slightly limited in their appeal. There is one scene towards the end where the mother (Beverley Callard) firmly holds our attention with a very powerful display, but the remaining is a little over the top in its desire to please.
When I say that all the performances are good, there is one that I have not mentioned and does not fit into this category. That of Little Voice herself. That of the truly incredible Jess Robinson. She leaps from socially crippled fluff to dancing diva in a blink of an eye. And the voice? The voice was something I found hard to come to terms with throughout. If you closed your eyes you would believe that Marilyn Monroe was standing in front of you singing Happy Birthday….the show was not without its pleasures.
It does lose your attention from time to time with the occasional overlong, and slightly pointless, comedy scene. But Little Voice has a big heart and makes a meaningful point about celebrity culture. That those who don’t seek its artificiality will sooner find happiness and the face of their true self.
That, like Socrates, Galileo, Keats and Anne Frank, who were not recognised in their own lifetime (in fact, three out of these four were persecuted), there is something so much bigger that you can be. And it is that which people will recognise, remember and rejoice far beyond your years.
Edinburgh run ended