Tag Archives: Sally George

“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)

“Positive” at the Park Theatre

Shaun Kitchener’s AIDS play, whose flyer boasts that ‘nobody dies’, takes inspiration from the improved outlook for those who are HIV positive. An upbeat AIDS play is a great idea and more than timely. And, for a debut play, Positive is very good indeed. After a slow start, the second act becomes more dramatic and much stronger. But the play’s amiability, down to its disappointingly gentle humour, is almost needy – it’s just too damn likeable.

Benji (Timothy George), dating again a year after discovering he is HIV positive, is our hero. Also earning admiration are his flatmate and her boyfriend (Nathalie Barclay and Paul Heelis), keen to do volunteer work abroad. All three are smart and likeable and the capable performers can do little but shout this. There’s also Benji’s potential new boyfriend, played by Kitchener, whose acting is as charming as his play. But, along with the practically perfect doctor (Claire Greenway), there’s no tension here. Even the piece’s villain, a role Ryan J Brown gets a lot from, is little more than a fool.  positive-174It’s only Benji’s mother and her ferocious, if frightful, efforts to help that hit home (and result in a cracking performance from Sally George, pictured). All the other characters are too idealised, with little exposition and an excess of sophistication. Kitchener seems too enamoured with these characters to make them believable.

Director Harry Burton does little to tame blander moments. The biggest problem, ironically one I suspect Kitchener fears, is a slide into TV territory, with a cutting remark about Christmas Day on EastEnders. Positive is far from soap opera, but perhaps it could have been even better. The structure of the play, which goes back and forth in time, suggests exciting possibilities. And politics, so often present in earlier responses to AIDS, are absent. It’s likely that Kitchener has more in store, so here’s to subsequent, bolder works.

Until 1 August 2015