Tag Archives: Georgie Rankcom



Southwark Playhouse Borough

BEFORE AFTER at Southwark Playhouse Borough


“Director Georgia Rankcom steers the show deftly through its ninety minutes, not allowing it to drag, and the overall show claims a unique quality”

From the moment Ben and Ami meet on a hillside we know we are looking out onto a lush, Romcom landscape. A warm glow washes over us as the filmic, easy-listening chords are plucked from the piano, cello and guitar accompaniment. The dialogue is snappy and the premise is quirky. The delivery is faultless and at the same time effortless. We hope we are going to be jolted out of our comfort zone, but instead of being challenged, we allow ourselves simply to be drawn into the story. Which is a delight, in no small way due to the polished performances of Jacob Fowler and Grace Mouat.

The chance meeting on the hillside is preordained. Ben and Ami have both been here before. Ami remembers everything but Ben is a blank canvas. The backstory is revealed swiftly enough, and it is now up to the couple to piece together their second chance at a happy ending. Ben has the disadvantage. He remembers nothing of their past relationship due to amnesia caused by a car accident just at the point things were starting to go horribly wrong with them. Ami decides not to reveal their past together, leading him on for too long. Her reasons are slightly implausible, but a necessary device to stoke the narrative with the tension it needs.

The story swings back and forth from the present to the past, each episode giving us more insight into the ‘before’ and ‘after’ relationship. There are the usual pitfalls, jealousies and arguments, but Timothy Knapman’s crisp and often witty text give them a fresh makeover, and Fowler and Mouat pitch the characterisation with a relaxed authenticity. They are both highly watchable and in fine voice throughout. Refreshingly no amplification is used, and the balance is spot on as the couple project over the trio of musicians. There is a chamber music quality that allows Stuart Matthew Prices’ lyrics to reach us, unfiltered and crystal clear.

There is a comfortable predictability and solutions become a bit oversimplified, that we long for more hazards, or twists, to trip us up. Similarly, the score drives along at a safe rate with few gear changes. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy, not least the chemistry between our two lovebirds. Director Georgia Rankcom steers the show deftly through its ninety minutes, not allowing it to drag, and the overall show claims a unique quality. During the moments of dialogue, we look forward to the next musical number, and during the songs we look forward to the next spoken scene. In no way a criticism of either, it is testament to the fine balance and connection between lyricist, composer and writer. Scenes mould seamlessly into song and vice versa, just as past and present intertwine as though in a well-choreographed waltz. Lines are echoed and repeated, taking on a new meaning depending in which time zone they are spoken.

Originally produced at the same venue during lockdown as a live streamed rehearsed reading, the reception back then was one of eager anticipation for the show to be fully realised on the stage. That was before, and this is after. The show feels as though it is still somewhere in the middle, and there is still another ‘after’ to come. A central premise of the musical is the question that asks, ‘is what comes after better than before’. This revival affirms the positivity that the story reflects, and we look forward to it standing the test of time.

BEFORE AFTER at Southwark Playhouse Borough

Reviewed on 9th February 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Danny Kaan



Previously reviewed at Southwark Playhouse venues

AFTERGLOW | ★★★★ | January 2024
LIZZIE | ★★★ | November 2023
MANIC STREET CREATURE | ★★★★ | October 2023
THE CHANGELING | ★★★½ | October 2023
RIDE | ★★★ | July 2023
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS … | ★★★★★ | May 2023
STRIKE! | ★★★★★ | April 2023
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH | ★★★★ | March 2023
SMOKE | ★★ | February 2023
THE WALWORTH FARCE | ★★★ | February 2023



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How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying


Southwark Playhouse



How to Succeed

“a highly intelligent musical that lampoons modern ideas of success and ambition”


Just over sixty years ago the musical satire, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” took Broadway by storm, winning eight Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for best drama. Based on Shepherd Mead’s semi-autobiographical, humorous novel of the same name, it charts the rapid rise of J. Pierrepont Finch up the corporate ladder as he pursues his American Dream. It is inevitable that the office politics and gender assumptions are going to struggle to stand the test of time, but Georgie Rankcom’s exuberant and dynamic staging dismisses any reservations we might have with sheer razzmatazz and inventive risk-taking in the personnel department.

Gender blind casting is nothing new. In fact, it has become a bit of a paradox: the choices these days are nearly always far too deliberate to have been taken ‘blindly’. Discussion aside, it might not always work. But in this case, it adds an essential twist – and much needed sympathy for the principal, self-obsessed characters. Gabrielle Friedman, as the scheming and deceiving Finch, is an endearing mix of opportunism, cynicism and self-deprecation; played with a twinkle as bright as their comic asides are subtle. We can’t fail to be on their side as Finch cheats, lies and manipulates his way to the top. Already at the top is the misanthropic, misogynist company boss, J. B. Biggley. Tracie Bennett grabs the role by the horns and wrestles it into a loveable beast of burlesque parody.

Everything works wonders. And it is refreshing to see that the book and lyrics are an unashamed joke, shared by performers and audience alike. You don’t need a manual to instruct you not to take this too seriously. Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert’s book is charged with shocking wit and pertinent observation, while Frank Loesser’s music and lyrics elevate the piece with a captivating score and libretto. But that’s a sure thing. The real success lies in the staging. Alexzandra Sarmiento’s choreography is as sharp as any knife used by these back-stabbing individuals.

But the acerbity is softened by vulnerability and sensitivity. Allie Daniel in particular, as Finch’s love interest, gives a stunning performance as Rosemary Pilkington, the secretary who yearns for his neglect and would just be “happy to keep his dinner warm”. Daniel embodies comic genius and vocal virtuosity in a powerhouse of a performance. Her comic timing is matched by Elliot Gooch, who deliciously struts with camp abandon as Biggley’s nepotistic nephew intent on revenge. The quality of the singing cuts across the board, each voice given their moment in Loesser’s uplifting score which allows the characterisation to shine through. Grace Kanyamibwa comes into her own during the number ‘Brotherhood of Man’; an uplifting mix of scat and gospel. Nobody steals the limelight as solos merge into duets, into rousing company ensembles. Bennett’s finely tuned, gravelly tones blend lushly in ‘Love from a Heart of Gold’ with the operatic cadences of Annie Aitken, Biggley’s mis-appointed mistress and secretary. Verity Power, Milo McCarthy, Danny Lane, Taylor Bradshaw all stand out, and fall back in line again in what is probably one of the most generous and joyous companies on the London stage.

This is a highly intelligent musical that lampoons modern ideas of success and ambition, and not so modern ideas of a women’s place in the workforce, and old-school mentality. It does so with affection, not for the culprits but for the victims. ‘A Secretary Is Not a Toy’ is simultaneously behind, and ahead, of its time in this production. The aching duet ‘Rosemary’ is timeless, and beautiful. And the humour of the piece is brought out in ‘Coffee Break’, ‘Been a Long Day’ and ‘Paris Original’.

Finch may have used a how-to manual to reach success. Alas, in reality there is no handbook available to create a successful musical. But clearly this company doesn’t need one. The success of this show is pretty much guaranteed. Anyone can see that – without really trying.


Reviewed on 16th May 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Strike! | ★★★★★ | April 2023
The Tragedy Of Macbeth | ★★★★ | March 2023
Smoke | ★★ | February 2023
The Walworth Farce | ★★★ | February 2023
Hamlet | ★★★ | January 2023
Who’s Holiday! | ★★★ | December 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | September 2022
The Prince | ★★★ | September 2022
Tasting Notes | ★★ | July 2022
Evelyn | ★★★ | June 2022


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