Little Voice is based on the Olivier Award – Winning London play originally written for Jane Horrocks (Little Voice), A young girl who lives in her mother’s house and does not talk above a squeak. She can only express herself through famous vintage songs, singing exactly like Judy Garland, Marlin Monroe and Billy Holiday. When her mother (Blethyn) joins up with a sleazy promoter, Mr Ray Say,they try to exploit her talent. Billy is a local telephone installer who falls for Little Voice. One of the issues of LV concerns the morals of exploitation.
Others include the results of poor parenting, jealousy and modesty. On the back stage left was a small, untidy representation of a kitchen.. On a high shelf was a box of cereal. There is also a door which is constantly used for movement by all actors. Front stage left is a small music system, central to the plot. Centre stage is a well-used sofa which is in frequent use. Stage right is LV’s bed (upstairs) with a window just big enough for a man to climb through. This is also frequently used! Most importantly there is a record player with some classic vintage vinyl on the floor.
Ray Say does not often use props but once throws the cereal around as a demonstration of character. Blethyn misinterprets Ray Say’s enthusiasm for LV’s extraordinary talent. She believes he is excited about herself. After Ray leaves the room to arrange a business meeting to promote LV, Blethyn celebrates her own false success with her friend by playing her (celebration) tune. Hence the need for a music system. LV uses few props, only using her record player and discs, which she accompanies. She only sings in the dark but clearly demonstrates an astonishing talent.
Billy uses the house phone as a means of entering and exiting the story. He also mentions his hobby of lighting but only see evidence at the end of the play when LV finally comes to see his display. Ray wears typically shiny, loud showbiz suits. Everything about his style is exaggerated, eg, his collars pressed open, drenched with starch. His shoes are gleaming, tailored to the n’th degree. His clothes typify the 1970s. His character is highly unsavoury but he believes he is distinctly glamorous. Blethyn dresses as a tart which suits her character.
She has no self-respect, dressing in a cheap and nasty way. LV initially wears drab, fashionless clothing. She has very low self-esteem and her clothes reflect this. Ray dresses her in true diva style but while she has no sense of self-worth these dream clothes hang like rags, until she realises that she truly desires to sing, when she appears to grow into her clothes and looks magnificent. Billy’s costume consists of standard trousers and shirts, and as with LV this reflects his low self-esteem. The stage is fairly minimal and lighting is used to create different environments.
For example, a soft spotlight is used to focus the audience’s attention on the quality of LV’s voice. Whereas, a bright spotlight is used when she successfully sings on stage. This gives the audience a sign that she is singing on a professional stage rather than tucked away in her room. Billy has a hobby making mesmerizing light patterns. As an audience we are kept in suspense. He frequently asks LV to come out and see them but she has insufficient confidence. As the story reaches a climax she agrees to go, despite her mother’s refusal and we witness her seeing her own name in lights.
Strobe lighting is also occasionally used to create impact. Most important in this play is the sound of LV’s record collection. This is central to the play. It is around the singers’ voices that the role of LV is cast. LV is painfully shy and when not singing she seems devoid of character with no obvious enjoyment of life. However, once singing along with the records, her whole personality blossoms and expands to fill the room. Certain elements of the staging, focuses the audiences attention. For example Bethyn throws her wine glass to the floor when she realizes that Ray intends to put LV in the spotlight and not herself.
This demonstrates one of the core themes of the play which is jealousy. There are no additional technical effects, relying solely on the actor’s timing. Another example of good staging is the finale when LV triumphs, overcoming her modesty and her exploitation by Ray and her mother. As an audience we are willing her to succeed and we are not disappointed. At this time a bright spot is used to concentrate our attention on LV. This time she sings into a microphone for the first time. This gives her voice great power which enthrals the audience and is most successful.
Voice, movement and expressions are used to make strong personalities out of characters . Ray is the secondary character but he has a very strong stage presence. He has a very dominating role. He emphasizes this by using his entire body including a blokeish swagger. His sense of self-worth is enormous and his opinions are always dogmatic, frequently talking right over others. His volume ranges between loud and catastrophic. Which is in direct contrast to LV. LV is monotonal and monosyllabic which symbolises her repressed personality.
LV uses small movements to demonstrate shyness and nervousness. Her personality is “on the edge” when she habitually sits on the edge of the sofa. This is in complete juxtaposition to her mother who uses expansive and demonstrative language and actions. Blethyn constantly overemphasises her own femininity by wriggling and pouting in a girly way. This contrasts with LV’s comparative immobility . LV infrequently uses tight, restricted movements compared to Blethyn’s extensive gestures which shriek of immaturity. The play has several social comments to make.
It portrays a lower-class one-parent family struggling to make a decent living. The 70s was a colourful decade with a theme of emancipation of women, increased access to education and a free society. It seems that this has not affected LV unfortunately, but Blethyn appears to be making the most of it. This feels uncomfortable to the audience until it is reversed at the finale. I personally enjoyed this performance. I thought the lighting and staging made an excellent addition to the quality of the production. LV’s singing was spectacular and made the show a worthwhile experience.