‘The rise and fall of little voice’ was written in 1989 by Jim Cartwright for Jane Horrocks, because of her wonderful impressions. It us set in the north of England and has been described as a northern fairytale. Although it is essentially naturalistic, the production which we saw had non-naturalistic elements. The set design was very impressive. The whole set was based around the theme of records, it was a big record with the centre being ‘His masters voice’ Judy Garland at Carnegie hall.
It is interesting to note that Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minelli’s relationship was much like that of Mari and L. V, they are linked by alcohol abuse, chaos and disorder. The centre piece also acted as the stage on which L. V performed at Mr. Boo’s club. Whilst L. V performed, the rest of the set would be in total darkness apart from a mirror ball hanging from the ceiling and rotating in the opposite direction to L. V. so that the audience feel as if they are the ones moving. The only light would be a spotlight on L. V which changes colour with each song and impersonation that she does, setting the mood, and changing the character. From the centre piece, different sections came off.
The audience sat around the stage and on different levels. In each of the different sections was a different room in L. V’s house. Each room was very detailed and realistic even though it had the non-naturalistic setting of an old record. The walls of the house were on the floor, on the outside of the record, it was as though the walls of the house had collapsed. Different parts of the house can be compared to either Mari or L. V. The lounge and kitchen represent Mari’s life, chaotic and full of disorder. The living room is decorated with bright colours, with animal print cushions it is faded and tacky.
Mari’s life is represented by the room using the coffee table. It is full of rubbish, ash trays, cigarette packets, empty bottles of alcohol and glasses, a total mess. The laundry basket nest to the armchair is full of dirty laundry, all the washing is tied together which is comical as Mari has ‘her knickers in a twist’, both literally and metaphorically speaking. The free standing ash tray next to the sofa suggests that smoking is a big part of Mari’s life as the ash tray isn’t just a practical thing it has been made into an ornament.
It is interesting to look at the type of music that Mari has in her record stand, Michael Jackson and the Jackson five, we see that Mari and L. V have very different tastes in music, just as they have very different lives. The front row of the audience on the lower floor are actually sat in the Hoff’s living room, this is an interesting technique used to make the audience feel like they are actually in the house, witnessing the events for real. In the kitchen the sink is absolutely full of washing up that hasn’t been done, empty bottles, rubbish.
It is evident that Mari doesn’t care about the state of her home. The kettle is faulty and the bread bin is empty apart from half a loaf of mouldy bread. In amongst the mess on the counter top there is an old cornflakes packet which helps to set the scene with its 1980’s design, it takes us back in time. The lino underneath the kitchen table has been worn away with age and the old flooring underneath it is showing through, this makes the kitchen look even more dirty and makes us feel even more negative towards Mari for letting this happen.
An ash tray on the kitchen table overflows and we can see that Mari simply cant be bothered as it doesn’t take much to empty an ashtray. We don’t actually see into Mari’s bedroom as there is no need, we have seen the sordid sex and filth that goes on in the living room so we can only imagine what takes place in the bedroom. Instead of going into detail with Mari’s bedroom as has been done for every other, all that we see is a window gobo on the floor. It is interesting, having studied the Hoff house to compare all the other rooms with L. V’s bedroom.
We can see just how different she is from her mother just by looking at her bedroom. It is raised up off the floor to show separation and it is very tidy. All she has in the room are records, her bed and her wardrobe. We can tell from looking at the room that music in L. V’s life. The curtains at L. V’s window are always drawn; she only ever peeks out of them. This shows how she is cut off from the outside world. When she peeks out of the window we can see a bright day outside, we can see back to back red bricked terraced houses, giving us a sense of place.
From an acting point of view the characters were portrayed very well. From the first scene we feel negative towards Mari, we see her as loud, violent, drunk and common. We see her as a bad mother as she is a drunk and a self centred and selfish person. From the way she acts with Ray, with no class or respect for herself, we see that she has no control over herself due to the way she acts with Ray and the way she shouts all the time, we feel that she is lacking in love and attention, this momentarily makes us feel sorrow towards her.
Her lack of control is probably something to do with the fact that she is drunk all the time, she is unsteady on her feet, this is emphasised by high heeled shoes. Mari’s costume is tarty and tacky, just by looking at her we can see what kind of a woman she is. Her cheap clothes are tight on her, her black bra can be seen through her tops and she wears the same pvc skirt all the way through the play, showing poverty. Mari’s interaction on stage with Ray is very physical, it is evident that she doesn’t care that she is throwing herself at him.
We see that she is impressed by Ray’s phoney status, she thinks he has money, and will to anything to get him. When he is talking about L. V in the morning and Mari thinks he is talking about her, we see just how much she lacks in love and affection we see how happy she is that someone has said those things about her, even though she has misinterpreted what he said. It is interesting to note that Mari never touches L. V. Even when Mari is trying to be a good mother, taking her a sandwich upstairs, she never touches her, never comforts her.
Mari comes across as quite big headed, thinking that she’s still attractive towards men, thinking that she can talk to Sadie and L. V like she does, we feel negative toward Mari as who is she to criticise Sadie and L. V for being quite. We feel as though she needs to look in the mirror and sort herself out before she comments on others. She is very loud and talks all the time, at people rather than to them. She is surrounded by people who are mute so she is very loud and very confident. L.
V is the total opposite of her mother. She has no confidence and is insecure; a recluse. The way she peeks out of the window and always has the curtains shut, the way in which she answered the door to Billy, and the way which she doesn’t want to go to the cafi?? with Ray shows us that she is agoraphobic. We see elements of obsessive compulsive disorder in her personality, the way in which she walks down the stairs in the same way each time and mutters to herself as though she is counting as she goes.
The way she smooths her hair back off her face and then rubs her hands down her trousers slowly, the way in which everything is spotless in her room and she always cleans her records before plying them. All these things are a symbolic representation of obsessive compulsive disorder. We get the feeling that L. V just wants to disappear, her music is her only escape from the world and her voices make her feel better, make her feel as if she is somebody else. Physically L. V is tiny, this is emphasised with the use of big baggy clothes. She has little girls pyjama’s and takes tiny quick steps like she is scared.
It is as though she is even afraid of herself, we see her get changed in her bedroom: she is in her own company but still is careful, doesn’t show her body, doesn’t look at her body. The contrast between the real L. V and L. V as a singer is immense. One minute she is this tiny girl who is vulnerable and timid and as soon as she steps onto the stage she is somebody else, she is whoever she is impersonating. She is bright and sexy, a performer. In conclusion the efforts of the designers and the actors combined made an excellent performance.