The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Few Australian theatre-goers would be unfamiliar with the name Caroline O'Connor - a legend of the Aussie stage. Well, now O'Connor is back in Sydney and ready to wow audiences in the role of Mari in Jim Cartwright's 'The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.' Carly spoke with Caroline this week about this role and what audiences can expect. Read more below: 

Caroline O'Conner plays Mari in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Little Voice is described as being somewhat of a Cinderella Story. What can you tell us about your character Mari and what has been your process in rehearsals of bringing this character to life?

Mari is a desperate woman who is passed her prime and has probably had a very difficult life that didn’t work out the way she planned. She has a very serious drinking problem that she would have picked up early in her life, most likely during her marriage, and she is a very vulnerable person because she is disappointed with her life and how it has turned out. Mari is just looking for something or someone she can grab onto and can save her from this sad life she is currently living.

The process has been all the more interesting because I was born in the North of England and I have worked there quite a lot, in places like Manchester and Wythenshawe and these sorts of areas, where work is extremely scarce and young people feel there is no hope for their future. The people living in these areas can only think about survival rather than their careers. They survive on their sense of humour and their close relationships with people. Having seen this first hand makes me feel closer to Mari and able to understand her.


Do you find that your characters stay with you after the run of the show? If so, what would you imagine will stick from Mari? And if not, in keeping her alive only for the instant, what is something that you would say to Mari as Caroline?

Yes, they do and definitely have in the past. For instance, I did a play called End of the Rainbow in which I played Judy Garland and my husband used to say to me “Please don’t bring her home, I don’t like living with her” - especially as I was playing her in this role during a very difficult and painful time in her life and I really committed to it and embraced it. Even during this production, after rehearsals I find myself talking with a northern accent and do quips and puns.

Something I would say to Mari would be “please stop drinking”. I do love her and think she’s got an incredible zest for life and wonderful personality. I would say to her “Pack up and get out because you can’t be surrounded by the things that make you unhappy.”

Why is The Rise and Fall of Little Voice an important story for a 2019 audience? Why should theatre-goers make sure they don’t miss it?

First and foremost, it would be popular because Jim Cartwright is an amazing writer and not many of his plays are able to be produced here in Australia. The play is very English and the humour is brilliant, but its also incredibly emotional. It is heart-breakingly hilarious. It will be great at this theatre, because the audience is so close to the emotion and action. It provides enormous insight into how people from that part of the world survive and how lucky we are here in Australia, living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.


Mari’s latest suitor, Ray Say, notices Little Voice’s talents and shoots for the big time hoping to find his pot of gold you could say. What important comments on show biz or talent do you think that this play makes?

You can’t take show biz too seriously and sometimes talent is spotted and wins overall. In this play it explores how some people are opportunistic and wish to exploit this talent for their own gain. In our business there are a lot of people out there like Ray Say. It is a very tough industry to be in and sometimes we aren’t always in control of our own work. Sometimes, I think, you have to be slightly mad to continue to do what we do. You’re putting yourself in such a vulnerable position to be constantly criticized. If you don’t love it, it’s best to get out. I think Ray Say really loves the business and really wants to be a part of the business.




Favourite production you have ever seen?



You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?


Dream show/role to perform?

Sweeney Todd - Mrs Lovett

Plays or musicals?


What’s next for you after this show?

Next, I am going to do a national tour of a concert series called La Scala to Broadway with Emma Matthews, David Hobson, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Alexander Lewis and Genevieve Kingsford. After that I am doing a musical called Kiss of the Spider Women with the Melbourne Theatre Company playing Aurora. This is a dream role for me.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice opens in Sydney's Darlinghurst Theatre Company on Feb 1st - click here to get your tickets before you miss out! 

Photo Credit: Robert Catto

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