The Rise and Fall of Little Voice- Review

West Yorkshire Playhouse/Birmingham Rep production of LITTLE VOICE by Jim Cartwright directed by James Brining

West Yorkshire Playhouse/Birmingham Rep production of
LITTLE VOICE
by Jim Cartwright
directed by James Brining

Hi I’m Cari, I’ve written a review of Little Voice for my Bronze Arts Award Project where I was required to view a performance, write a review, give and share my opinion.  This is my first time writing on a blog and I thought it would be a good way of sharing my review.  I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.  Thanks.

The Review

Witty, intelligent and insightful, Little Voice has it all.

Set in a gritty working class family, where poverty and desperation appear round every turn.  The Rise and Fall of Little Voice lit up an unseen spark which remained untouched throughout the play.  Little Voice (LV) spends her time in her room, relentlessly playing her dead father’s cherished record collection, in a house which she shares with her mother, Mari. Mari is loud, crude and frequently drinks.  This automatically sets an interesting starting point, as LV is the opposite to her mother, and drowns out the emptiness she feels with the sound of her music.

The play commences with Mari getting a new phone fitted into her house.  I feel this was an excellent starting point, as it immediately sets the time concept and shows the awkward relationship between Mari and LV.  LV’s soon to be friend Billy is also introduced in this scene.  There tentative yet intimate relationship slowly blossoms throughout the play, and captivates the audience because of their unlikely friendship.

Nancy Sullivan (LV) was perfectly cast in this role, as she captures the shyness and timidness of LV, as well as the spark and desire to be heard.  Later in the show, we realise that not only does LV listen to music, she can also flawlessly impersonate the famous artists.  This is revealed when she sings to herself and her mother’s latest fling Ray Say.  Astonished and bewildered, Ray Say acts upon this and attempts to persuade LV to sing in the local cabaret.  The entirety of the play is then based upon LV mastering the courage to perform and make her father proud.

Nancy Sullivan’s beautiful singing bewitches the audience and transports you to Hollywood: a thought, I presume, that’s also on Mari’s and Ray Say’s mind.  Vicky Entwhistle complements Mari to a T.  She is a Yorkshire lass who’s larger than life and feels misplaced in the life she is living.  Her constant boozy barrier, protects her from the looming fears of poverty and isolation which is perfectly shown by her acting.

The transition from scene to scene is snippets of radio broadcast from the time; such as, Margaret Thatcher and the Miners Strike.  I feel this highlighted the struggles in that time period and related well to LV and Mari’s struggle in a working class life.  It was also well chosen, as it has an effect on audience members who lived through that time period, as well as the Tories unmistakeable effect on the social and economic structure then and now.

The set reflected a Yorkshire terrace house, it has a damaged structure and is falling apart in various places.  It contains two bedrooms, a bathroom and adjoined living and kitchen space.  Around the outside of the house were various objects, such as dart boards and broken junk.  I feel this may represent past memories of LV’s father and Mari’s old life as a constant reminder of what they don’t have.  The fractured house structure may also reflect LV and her mother’s fractured relationship.

To conclude, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a witty unmissable play currently showing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  It touches on life as a working class family in the time of the Tories reign in the 1980’s.  James Brining and Jim Cartwright have created a touching performance that makes us think about how our starting point in life affects us and how success is finding who you really are.

4 Stars.

Liberate Tate #TimePiece

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I like it when you stumble across things.  I’m one of life’s bumblers with no grand plan, this can of course be infuriating for me and others at times but on balance it really works.  It’s a particularly good way to enjoy cities so instead of a must see list and charging round at the speed of light so you can cross things off said list, I find it much better to have a vague idea, somewhere to sort of aim at but it doesn’t matter whether you get there or not.  This way, while you have a sense of direction, the journey is somewhat more haphazard and as a result you see more things along the way.

I hadn’t planned to go into Tate Modern the other day but as I was ambling up the south bank having spent a very enjoyable few hours in it’s older sibling Tate Britain and in particular at the Fighting History exhibition I thought it would be good to pop in and see what was in the Turbine Hall, also I needed the loo.  I really wasn’t sure what was going on at first as hunched, veiled figures were holding books, scribbling on the floor.  On closer inspection I’d stumbled across an artistic protest which was kind of spookily ace seeing as I’d just come from an exhibition featuring radical protest art and artists trying to interpret key moments in history.  Climate change and dependence on fossil fuels will surely be a key moment in our history and here unfolding in front of me was conflict, protest, an artistic act that seeks to make sense of this moment and affect change.

The group doing the scrawling were Liberate Tate who are a group of artists protesting about BP’s sponsorship of the gallery.  They have done a number of other artistic protests but in this one they were occupying the turbine hall for 24 hours (to coincide with the tidal movements of the Thames) and were using charcoal to inscribe passages and slogans from dystopian novels, climate change reports, non fiction books that provided a thought provoking narrative.

Should public institutions be tied to companies driving climate change? At the very least it should be very clear what investment is being made and it seems very odd that it took a three year legal battle to get the amount that BP invests in the Tate made public, and the amount ?  £224,000 a year apparently which, while being a not inconsiderable sum of money, makes up only 0.3% of the Tate’s operating budget.  Food for thought I think.

I don’t know what happened when the gallery was due to close, would the security guards move in or would the group be allowed to stay and continue their silent protest, quietly scribbling away?

I’m glad that I stumbled across Liberate Tate.

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Fighting History

The History of the World 1997-2004 Jeremy Deller 

The timeline on the wall outside the Fighting History exhibition at Tate Britain tracks from 60000BC through to 1990. Over this vast span of history are random points of struggle that have been depicted spanning 250 years of British historical art and that form the focus of the exhibition.  What I found striking throughout the artworks across the six rooms was how it made me consider history and how it is portrayed together with the title of the exhibition ‘Fighting History’ and how this was reflected in the art.  Who is fighting who and why? what was the story behind the images captured by artists across the years and indeed what is the fight?  It also made me think about how can you take individual significant moments from history (whatever period that is) and distil that moment or event and in doing so what story are you telling of the event?

My preconceptions perhaps before going in were that I would be confronted with images of Nelson and other heroic figures of British history bathed in patriotic fervour.  However the first image that I was confronted with was related to the poll tax riots as the first room dealt with radical history and how British artists have sought to show the resistance to authority.  Also in this room was the Jeremy Deller picture above, a seemingly simply mind map linking Brass Bands and Acid House within which is the Conservative governments’ attempts to outlaw a particular type of music via the Criminal Justice Bill and how, perhaps as a result of that threat, dance music is now simply another corporate money making enterprise far removed from invention and radicalism.  It’s safe to say that this was not exactly what I was expecting in an exhibition on Fighting History and I found it brilliant thought provoking stuff.

Other rooms continued to educate, inform and enthral me through looking at ancient history, mythology, large scale moments of history, individual moments of fighting history (and there were some fascinating interpretations of what this might be) as well as the humankind’s constant battle against nature.  What I particularly liked in the way the rooms were curated were the different artistic interpretations, so for example there were modernist takes on both the Battle of Hastings and the Biblical Flood which I thought really showcased how different artists interpreted events.

History is written by the winners and this exhibition made me reflect on that and our place within it and it made me consider how we remember things, how do we keep events alive and relevant? who tells the story and what story is it that they are telling?

All of these things came together in a room that looked at the 1984/85 miners strike and in particular a documentary on a re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave, again done by Jeremy Deller, which interspersed interviews with those affected by the strike amongst the preparations for the re-enactment of the battle, which was meticulously done by ex miners who where there at the time and volunteers from various re-enactment societies.  It left a very powerful impression on a key moment of recent British history that many would like to see forgotten and asks some uncomfortable questions around the truth and whether we will ever really know it.

A truly interesting and thought provoking exhibition.

Half Term Photo Fun – 2015 – Pattern

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I must admit I love it when the kids pick a shape for the photofun challenges as it opens up so many possibilities and interpretations and this was definitely the case with their choice of pattern for halftermphotofun.  It’s almost impossible not to look up (or down) and see some sort of pattern, be that in nature, architecture, or something you have just created, and this was clearly reflected in the range of photos that were sent in.  I must admit however that I was scratching my head for a bit with the photos of Pat Butcher and a Tern that came in from the same person until of course you put them together.  It got me thinking generally about pattern and patterns and how our everyday lives are themselves a pattern of similar routines stitched together into one narrative and I’d have liked to have somehow seen a graphical representation of my life as a pattern.

Do click on the gallery to open it then you can scroll through the photos as they came in, which ones do you like ? and can you spot the mushroom which I really liked.  Be they regimented or random I thought that this was a great selection that you all sent in, and as always thanks so much to all of you who took part.

The next one we do will be the main one where it all started #summerphotofun running for 6 weeks over the summer.  Keep your eyes on my twitter @ianstreet67 or the hashtag and play along with us.

Easter Photo Fun 2015 – Week 2 – Symbol

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I thought the kids picked two great themes over the Easter holidays, firstly with Point and then with the theme of Symbol for the second week, a theme that was so open and of course you did not disappoint by sending in all sorts of interpretations.  When you think about it symbols are everywhere around us, guiding us on everything from finding our way around maps to the washing instructions in our smalls, there are totemic symbols of power and powerful symbols of peace or revolution.  As I’m writing this each letter is of course a symbol that combined provides us with our written word which is perhaps the most powerful symbol of all as it contains within it the passport to the combined weight of human knowledge.  Not bad for a collection of marks.

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed across the week and for taking part and playing along with our social photography themes, it really is appreciated.  Do click on the gallery so that you can flick through the photos as they were sent in and let us know which ones you liked.  Can you spot all the symbols?  We’ll be back for halftermphofofun in June before the big one over the summer if people still want to play along.

 

Easter Photo Fun 2015 – Week 1 – Point

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Point has been the first theme for the two weeks of EasterPhotoFun set by the kids and as always you have sent in some lovely interpretations, some very obvious points others indicating low points for example.  I loved the railway point, knitting needles, ballet shoes, pens/pencils and must give a biased shout out to one of my kids for her photo of the picture frames that I thought was a really good interpretation.

However my fav was I think the photo of Verity, the mammoth 20m sculpture by Damien Hirst that looks over Ilfracombe harbour.  A pregnant woman, holding the scales of justice, standing on a pile of books and wielding a large sword.  This was the largest sculpture in Britain when it was put up in 2012.  I’ve never seen it in the flesh but standing higher than the Angel of the North this must be some sight.  Whenever I see things like this it always makes me angry that Leeds turned down the option to have our own massive brick man sculpture (before the Angel of the North) that was proposed by Anthony Gormley.  However Verity is surely the most perfect interpretation of point, not least of course from the sword in her hand but from the viewpoint that many people will have of this and other modern art when they ask what’s the point.

As always many thanks for all who have chipped in with your interpretations it’s been a really fun week.  Do click on the gallery and you can scroll through the pictures in the size they came in.  Do let us know which ones you liked.

The Wonders of Pygmalion

Recently I’ve figured that it’s beneficial to read books as double features (that’s what I call them in my pseudo-English) meaning two books of the same topic or topos but from different authors. My double features so far:

Michael Frayn, Copenhagen – Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Physicists

George Orwell, 1984 – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther – Ulrich Plenzdorf, Die neuen Leiden des jungen W.

Then I realised I had another potential DF on my shelves: George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Educating Rita by Willy Russell. Shaw’s Pygmalion became famous as My Fair Lady and so a question sprang to my mind:

Why Pygmalion?

I googled it and came across one of the most fascinating little stories I’ve ever heard about. Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells us about a sculptor, Pygmalion, who despises women for their wickedness. He makes the sculpture of a woman so beautiful he falls in love with her. On Venus’ festival he asks of the goddess to give him a woman like the statue but Venus knows what Pygmalion really wants. Coming back home he kisses his sculpture and she turns into a real woman. (Pygmalion keeps testing her realness by repeatedly groping her breasts.) They get married and have a son.

Now isn’t that gender studies gold?! A man creates his own perfect woman and she is exactly what he wants her to be. It reminds me of this wonderful gothic novella, The Sandman (1816), by ETA Hoffmann. In it the male protagonist finds his nagging and self-determined wife to be a real pain in his behind. One day he catches sight of the most beautiful woman and falls for her. She never says a word, she’s patient, she’s gracious, and from time to time the sweetest sigh escapes her mouth. Turns out she’s a robot.

The whole thing works the other way around too, of course. In German there’s a saying according to which you can bake the man of your dreams (or Mr Right is yet to be baked in which case there’re baking sets available to bake oneself a man in a most literal sense).

Back to our Pygmalion. Shaw does what is a very plausible thing to do: in his play from 1913 he asks the question of what happens after the statue turns real. I mean, imagine this. Technically there’s a woman now with the knowledge and experience of a newborn. Shaw calls her Eliza (well, strictly speaking it was Johann Jakob Bodmer who did this in 1749), makes her a London flower girl and lets her ask Professor Higgins (Pygmalion) to teach her how to speak properly so she can work in a flower shop. The playwright makes it a story about gender and class and uses education as a vehicle for her emancipation – an emancipation he grants her in the play, but not in his epilogue. A love story between Higgins and Eliza would be utterly absurd, concludes Shaw: “Galatea [the name later given to Pygmalion’s sculpture] never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable.”

Willy Russell’s Educating Rita (1980) is familiar to many as a modern version of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady. Once again a male playwright tells us a story about a woman who wants more and once again it is about education and her relationship with her tutor. Frank educates Rita – and loses her.

This is not the place to analyse the plays in depth. You guys are smart enough to do it yourselves and I guarantee you there’s enough food for your thoughts to keep your minds busy in a fun and rewarding way for awhile.

I would, however, like to draw your attention to the fact that Pygmalion has inspired painters and sculptors alike to produce some great artwork. Edward Burne-Jones, a Pre-Raphaelite, painted a series of four pictures (click on the link for more information on them):

The Heart Desires

The Heart Desires

The Hand Refrains

The Hand Refrains

The Godhead Fires

The Godhead Fires

The Soul Attains

The Soul Attains

Last but not least I would like to tell you about the Pygmalion effect: an experiment showed that students performed better after their teachers had been told that their (actually average) students were particularly gifted.

Pygmalion, Pygmalion, you curious little thing you…

Psst! If you ever felt physically attracted to sculptures, you have Pygmalionism (aka Agalmatophilia).