Reviewed – 25th May 2018
“simply not the standard which I associate with the Southwark and it left me very disappointed”
On a 90s boardwalk, Ella, a young confidence trickster, tries to play her way to a fortune only to come unstuck, in Judy Upton’s Confidence. Produced by Boundless Theatre and first performed in 1998, this is an exploration of frustrated youth and capitalist daydreams.
This is a good play. Although occasionally overly verbose, Upton’s script is witty, sharp and affectionate to its ensemble of losers. Many of the themes it touches on feel particularly pertinent today, comments on deluded ambition, consumerism and sexual politics that play into current concerns that are prevalent in the current social conscience. It is no wonder why Boundless felt it was ripe for a revival. There are clearly good intentions behind this production.
Sadly it falls apart in execution. Director Rob Drummer may have created the feel of the 90s, but he fails to connect us to his central characters. The set design (Amelia Jane Hankin), although impressive and immaculate in its attention to detail, swamps the space forcing the actors to the side lines. The blocking feels obvious and unnatural, further cutting the actors off from the audience. In all, while the period is realised, the world lacks the fun and energy needed to engage. There are pacing issues throughout, with too many dead air pauses that leave the room flat. It feels superficial, telling more than showing and at two hours it starts to drag.
In terms of the performances, Anna Crichlow’s Ruby shines. She is a gem bringing energy, commitment and joy every time she steps on stage, even if only to sweep the floor. Ruby’s triumphant final decree was met with well earned applause from the audience. Unfortunately, every one else appears to struggle. Rhys Yates as older brother Ben fares best, giving the character authority and vulnerability in the face of Ella’s schemes, while Will Pattle’s hapless Dean succeeds in providing moments of humour and pathos. Lace Akpojaro creates a strong sense of benign threat as owner Edwin. But there is a lack of emotional connection between the characters which they can’t overcome. In the central role of Ella, Tanya Burr certainly delivers the character’s grit and hardness, but not the charm and wit necessary to carry the piece and her delivery borders on monotonous.
This was simply not the standard which I associate with the Southwark and it left me very disappointed. It was frustrating that while such care had been taken in the detail of presenting this world, the heart of the story was strangely absent.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
Photography by Helen Murray
Southwark Playhouse until 16th June
Previously reviewed at this venue