This month, Katie Elin-Salt will reprise her role as Little Voice, having previously performed as the protagonist of Jim Cartwright’s 1992 play, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, for an adaptation at Bolton Octagon Theatre in 2012.

We spoke to Katie about landing the role in the 2012, her activities since then and what we can expect from this year’s reinterpretation, which is programmed from 24 January to 2 February at the Bolton Albert Halls.

When did you first come across Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice?

I was three when the first production at the National had its debut. Sadly, I missed it that time round, but I watched the film a lot throughout my childhood. A lot of the more mature content went over my head, but I remember being mesmerised by Jane Horrocks and her singing. I first discovered the play in drama school and was desperate to play the part since then.

What attracted to you to the role of Little Voice in 2012, and what attracted you to return to it this year?

It has always been a dream role for me and I was beside myself when I was offered the role back in 2012. Aside from the opportunity to sing the greats with a live orchestra and work with a fantastic cast, I loved the story of a young woman from a challenging background finding her voice and her place in the world. I think many people can relate to that story and it’s one I’ve always found very moving. I think it’s a timeless story that spoke to audiences, both back then in 2012 and now.

How did the 2012 audiences and critics receive the play?

I was amazed by the generosity, positivity and kindness of the Bolton audience and critics. The response was overwhelmingly positive – people took our production to their hearts and we were all privileged to be a part of it. The Bolton audiences are very special and we were so pleased (and relieved) that they approved.

How do you feel about playing Little Voice again and working with the director Ben Occhipinti?

I was very excited but slightly anxious about the prospect of coming back to this play, as the 2012 production was an incredibly precious and magical time for me. I’ve always said it was my favourite job and I would only revisit it with the right director and if I felt there were new things to say. However, as soon as I met Ben, I loved his vision and felt we had much more to explore together. As soon as I opened the script, the memories came flooding back and I felt so excited about finding Little Voice again. I am really excited to be playing her as a slightly older woman now and with a different – equally brilliant – cast.

 

 

 

Have there been changes in the way this latest version of the play is staged?

The main change is that last time we performed in the Octagon, but obviously it is currently a building site due to the exciting refurbishment, so we had to find a new home. This time we are performing in the famous Albert Halls. It is much bigger than the Octagon, so I may have to shout a bit louder, but it’s a beautiful space we are honoured to be guests in. The set, staging and some of the songs have been changed, so if you saw it last time it’s definitely worth a revisit.

What do you think is the appeal of Cartwright’s 1992 play to contemporary audiences?

I think the story of a woman finding herself is timeless, as are the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and grief, which Jim explores so beautifully in this play. I also think it is fascinating for a contemporary audience to see a world without mobile phones and pre-X Factor, reality TV celebrity. 

Of course the music is a huge draw, regardless of what year it is. Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and Gracie Fields – the old divas will never grow old.

Do you think Northern audiences respond to the play differently?

People are rightly protective over Jim’s work as it is very much a voice of the people and it speaks for and with them. Performing Jim Cartwright on his home turf is a daunting prospect, especially when you’re not a local and I was so keen to do him and his play justice whilst performing for the people of Bolton. I think if we were to perform this play in London, it would be more of an education as to how Northerners communicate and lived back then, whereas in Bolton every show you’ll hear someone saying something like, “Oooo, she’s just like Aunty Eileen, her!”

What have you been working on in the last few years since you first played Little Voice?

I’ve been very lucky to still be acting and performing brilliant roles around the UK and beyond. I played Rita in Educating Rita back in 2013 (another dream come true), I’ve played at the National theatre in London and Shakespeare’s Globe. Most recently, I was lucky enough to be in the Paines Plough rep season for a year, performing three new plays in a pop-up theatre around the UK.

Aside from this, when not acting I work as a music and drama teacher in various schools around London and Cambridge, which I absolutely love. The children know I sometimes disappear to do my acting. I’m not sure they quite understand, but they are always very excited and proud of me.

What are your upcoming plans?

Learn my lines, remember my Shirley Bassey choreography and treat the new cast to a slap up meal at Olympus fish and chip restaurant.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice runs from 24 January to 2 February at the Bolton Albert Halls.

Sadia Habib