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LITTLE VOICE

Little Voice, Big Screen
The fable-like yet starkly realistic story of Little Voice — a desperately shy young woman with a magical talent for expressing herself in the lilting tones of legendary singers — enchanted audiences across London with its mixture of sharp humor, show-sto

The fable-like yet starkly realistic story of Little Voice - a desperately shy young woman with a magical talent for expressing herself in the lilting tones of legendary singers - enchanted audiences across London with its mixture of sharp humor, show-stopping entertainment and shocking emotional revelations.

First seen in Jim Cartwright's widely admired play "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice," the childlike character seemed to take on a life of her own. Almost immediately, negotiations began to bring the story of Little Voice's catalytic brush with stardom to the screen. The play opened at London's National Theatre in June of 1992 before moving to London's West End. In both venues, it was a huge sensation. Jane Horrocks' tour-de-force performance - and dead-on impersonations - had critics and audiences reeling.

Recalls producer Elizabeth Karlsen: "I remember going to see it with executive producer Stephen Woolley. I remember walking across Waterloo Bridge when it was over and just feeling like I was walking on air. The play created such a fantastic atmosphere. What appealed to me most was the way it turned the story of someone finding her own voice into at once a Wizard of Oz-style fable and a moving drama all presented in a witty contemporary context with brilliant music. It was a very clever, original work and I thought it had the potential to make a wonderful film."

Mark Herman, who would eventually write and direct the screen adaptation, also saw the play early in its run. "On the very first night, I was knocked out by it," says Herman. "I usually hate the theatre, but this was one my few really enjoyable experiences. It was magical. Still, at the time I couldn't quite imagine it being adapted for the screen. It was totally uncategorizable."

Meanwhile, Karlsen was tenaciously committed to the idea of bringing Little Voice's funny yet touching story to a new medium. "I was so taken by it on first impulse, that I never really considered the enormous difficulties," she says. She soon found herself in collaboration with Miramax Films, which had acquired the rights to the play, and with whom (working with Stephen Woolley and Nik Powell) she had previously produced another unconventional but powerful North Atlantic story, "The Crying Game."

After Mark Herman wrote and directed "Brassed Off" for Miramax, discussions began about attaching him to LITTLE VOICE. "It was very exciting for all of us to work with a writer/director combination who could really shape the story," explains Karlsen.

As for Herman, he admits that in the beginning, he still had his reservations. "There were some initial similarities to 'Brassed Off' because it was also a mixture of humor, tragedy and music," notes Herman, "but for LITTLE VOICE there was a whole additional magical fairy-tale layer which made it a very different challenge."

He continues: "I can easily say it was the hardest writing job I've ever done because in essence the original story was about a girl who never leaves her room, and that's not very cinematic. But I concerned myself instead with staying true to the original themes, rather than the settings."

For Herman, the strongest of those themes two quiet, but secretly quite extraordinary people who have been utterly rejected by the w

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