THE RISE and Fall of Little Voice by Jim Cartwright, the 1812 Theatre Company’s summer production at Helmsley Arts Centre (HAC), is an engaging fairy tale of despair, hope and love, writes Natasha Jones, director.

It’s the story of a shy girl with a hidden talent. ‘Little Voice’ has a gift that enables her to imitate every chanteuse from Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe to Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield.

In the dilapidated home in a northern town that she shares with her alcoholic mother Mari, Little Voice hides in her room, playing her dead father’s record collection at a volume matched only by the soulful power of her own vocal impressions.

When Mari starts dating small-time talent agent Ray Say, she thinks he’s her last chance for a better life. And when Ray hears Little Voice sing, he thinks she’s his ticket to the big time. But Little Voice just wants to lead a normal life — and most of all, to be loved.

The play premiered at the National Theatre in 1992, won the Evening Standard and Olivier awards for best comedy, and is probably the best known work by Lancashire-born dramatist and novelist Jim Cartwright.

In the Helmsley production, former 1812 Youth Theatre member and co-leader Florrie Stockbridge takes the demanding part of Little Voice that was made famous by Jane Horrocks both on stage and in the memorable 1998 film version, set in Scarborough.

Kate Cawte plays Mari and 1812 company stalwart Joe Coughlan is Ray, the role taken by Michael Caine in the film. Joe Gregory is Mr Boo, the owner of the nightclub where Little Voice is reluctantly persuaded to sing; Sarah Barker is the neighbour Sadie; and Barley Gillespie is Billy the telephone repairman who falls in love with Little Voice.

Stage managing the show is another 1812 Youth Theatre graduate, Amy Hughes. Besides its musical content, the play sets challenges for HAC’s technical team led by Steve Woolmer.

The action is punctuated by blackouts and blown fuses, literal as well as personal, and culminates in a fire caused by faulty wiring before the denouement in which Little Voice at last finds a voice of her own.

One way or another, this is a big undertaking even for an experienced and versatile amateur company such as the 1812 — but we’re proud to bring such a poignant and touchingly funny play to the Helmsley stage.

The show runs from Thursday, July 4 to Saturday July 6. Tickets are available from the Box Office 01439 771700 or at