The Rise and Fall of Little Voice/My Real War 1914 - ?, The Vaudeville Theatre/ Trafalgar Studios, London

There may come a day when you will have to have featured in a viewer-voted TV talent contest to do anything of note in London theatre – not just star in a West End show, but direct Shakespeare, run a flagship national company, the whole shebang. So I suppose we should be relatively calm about the containable fact that an X Factor finalist, Diana Vickers, is currently failing to add either lustre or plausibility to Terry Johnson's energetically mediocre revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Jim Cartwright's lovely blowsy-yet-poetic Northern tragicomedy which was first seen in a production by the young Sam Mendes at the National in 1992. The blame lies not with Ms Vickers, but with the misguided producers.

She portrays the eponymous Little Voice, a lonely, bereft young girl who has retreated to her bedroom with her beloved dead dad's stack of diva records, and into her world of eerily spot-on impersonations of these icons. Downstairs, her frustrated, motormouth slattern of a mother is throwing herself at anything in trousers. When Jane Horrocks took the part of "LV" for Mendes (and in the later movie), she was piercing. Her Little Voice seemed to carry round her own micro-climate of withdrawn grief and achingly suspended potential.

The voices were her patrimony and her amulet against a hostile world and they seemed to possess her with an uncanny mediumistic power. Vickers, by contrast, is just an inexperienced performer who has been taught to do a passable Shirley Bassey and Cilla Black, but whose Judy Garland has none of the right needy, neurotic throb. She looks mighty fine in her silver, slit-up-the-side number in the spectacularly lit climactic concert, but where Horrocks was riding a vortex of rapturous ventriloquism, Vickers is merely meandering through a medley. It doesn't help that, as her comic-grotesque mother, that lovely, sensitive actress Lesley Sharp has been grotesquely miscast.

The speciousness of this exercise is summed up by the new song specially written for this production by Take That's Mark Owen. It's supposed to show Little Voice capable of singing in her own right for the first time. But it makes no psychological sense. How could a girl brought up entirely on daddy's records of show- and cabaret-tunes possibly start to sing in this standard-issue sob-holler contemporary-pop mode, such as can be heard on umpteen X Factor auditions. It would take more than a movement of her spirit; it would take a complete brain transplant for this dismal dirge to sound right as the spontaneous self-expression of the newly liberated heroine.

If he had lived, the hero of the one-man show My Real War 1914-? would have become the uncle of John Le Mesurier, the actor best remembered for his role as Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army. But 2nd Lieutenant Havilland Le Mesurier – known as "Lem" – was killed in action in 1916, leading an assault by the men of the King's Royal Rifles on a German trench. He was 22.

Lem's privately published letters to his parents have now been woven into a poignant monodrama by Tricia Thorns of Two's Company, an outfit whose excellent "Forgotten Voices from the Great War" project was started in protest against the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003. Pukka and puppyish with his lanky limbs and large china-blue eyes, Philip Desmeules delivers a touching portrait of this stiff-upper-lipped scion of the Channel Island gentry.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice: (0844 579 1940) to 30 January; My Real War 1914-?: (0870 060 6632) to 31 October

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star