Tag Archives: Kevin McMonagle

“The Rise and Fall of Little Voice” at the Park Theatre

This misguided new production of Jim Cartwright’s excellent play is a disappointment. Given the much-loved 1998 film, expectations on any revival are bound to be a heavy burden. But the characters of Little Voice, a reclusive singer impressionist, and her mother, the inimitable Mari, were written for the stage. Director Tom Latter makes a mess of allowing us the luxury of seeing them live.

Rafaella Hutchinson takes the lead and should be pleased with her performance. She might portray Little Voice’s meekness a little more, but the character’s fear and anger are convincing. Hutchinson’s singing voice is strong, although the impersonations get stuck at Judy Garland. It ends up pleasing – rather than amazing – to see her character move from bedroom to stage, so Hutchinson’s talent feels wasted.

The problem is that the play is horribly rushed. Hutchinson stands her ground against Latter’s speedy approach, but the rest of the cast suffers. Kevin McMonagle, as the budding promoter hoping to exploit young talent, becomes shrill and annoying. And while Linford Johnson, as the love interest Billy, has good chemistry with Hutchinson, the scenes between them both are too brief to enjoy.

Sally George as Mari
Sally George as Mari

Worse still is the fate of Mari. It’s understandable that she delivers some lines at a cracking speed – it shows how smart she is. But the character is then undermined. Latter, and his partner-in-crime associate director Anita Dobson, interpret a facility for language as mistakes. So Mari’s plays on words become malapropisms and we end up laughing at her, rather than with her. It’s all a special shame since Sally George has the stage presence needed for the role – and when tensions between mother and daughter reach a crisis point, she gives a moving performance. But we are unprepared to appreciate how desperate Mari is, or how much self-knowledge she possesses. A patronising tone, seen throughout the production, leaves the play without rise or fall, as if watching it on a flat screen.

Until 15 September 2018


Photo by Scarlett Casciello (top) and Ali Wright (inset)

“The Flouers o’ Edinburgh” at the Finborough Theatre

This is my kind of way to join the debate about Scottish independence. As those north of the border go to the ballot box, Londoners should vote with their feet and visit the Finborough Theatre’s new production of The Flouers o’ Edinburgh. Set not long after the Acts of Union in 1707, it raises pointed issues of identity and politics, but in such an endearingly comedic fashion that the topics feel light and fresh.

Jennifer Bakst’s direction makes the play easy entertainment, controlling potential touches of farce and opting for a gentle comedy that is close to frothy. There’s plenty of satire but nothing mean spirited and, since politics is one of the topics, it ticks the ‘timeless’ box. Philip Lindley’s set and Rose Adolph’s costumes are impressive. The cast is huge for such a small venue and the standard of acting high. It all bounces along very merrily indeed.

Maybe the play feels so sprightly because of the romance at its heart. It’s Sir Charles and Aunt Girzie’s intention that his son and her niece should marry, but should the elder couple get together as well? Kevin McMonagle and Jenny Lee perform with such twinkles in their eyes, we yearn for their union. The younger Charles and his intended Kate have obstacles to overcome, namely his snobbery and ambition, all ripe for mockery. Finlay Bain plays Charles Jnr with great stage presence but a touch too much restraint. Leigh Lothian’s Kate is feisty and much more fun.

The hot topic is whether or not to abandon the Scottish language for English. Young Charles is an early adopter, to the disgust of all, especially Kate, who continues to speak in Scots. But rejecting the mother tongue is the only way to get ahead in public life. The playwright Robert McLellan makes his political point well, but what’s remarkable here is that, despite the language used, comprehension is easy. There’s a lot a Sassenach might not know but Lee, in particular, still manages to make you laugh. McLellan was committed to writing in Scots. It’s telling that this 1948 play is only now receiving its English premiere. This fine play is a very welcome import.

Until 27 September 2014


Photo by Ciaran Cunningham

Written 3 September 2014 for The London Magazine