Tag Archives: Olivia Munk




Southwark Playhouse

RIDE at the Southwark Playhouse




“skilfully and beautifully performed under Sarah Meadows’ flamboyant direction”


If you keep going North, you will eventually go South. If you keep going West, however, you will never go East. That is a reality. But like many realities, it wasn’t to stand in the way of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bicycle around the world – albeit mostly by ship. A pioneer, pragmatist, opportunist and somewhat unreliable storyteller, Londonderry had a casual relationship with the truth. This is the thread that runs through “Ride”, the musical by Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams. Adopting the format of a pitch in which Annie is trying to sell her story to an offstage panel of senior (and presumably male) newspaper editors, it veers into a more introspective journey of self-reinvention.

Dubiously and rather loftily described as ‘the greatest story ever told’, it was nevertheless declared by the ‘New York World’ in 1895 as the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman. Annie’s version of events is a fascinating tale, particularly in its time. Beyond the headlines, Londonderry was really Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a young, Jewish mother of three small children. She abandoned her role of wife and mother to pedal away into history, earning her way through self-promotion, selling photographs and becoming a kind of mobile billboard. The name ‘Londonderry’ came from the first of several corporate sponsors of her journey.

The show touches on the darkness and complexity of Londonderry’s character and motivations, but for the most part follows the ‘triumph over adversity’ narrative. Liv Andrusier, as Annie, bears the bulk of the story. From the off, a commanding and cocksure presence, Andrusier renders a not particularly likeable character loveable. A mixture of self-confident cynicism and self-aware charm, she is captivating throughout, but truly soars when she sings. Andrusier has the presence to carry the show singlehandedly, but her character enlists the aid of Martha, a secretary at the newspaper. A reluctant aid at first, Martha soon gets into the swing of things, shedding her own awkwardness as she adopts the various characters of Londonderry’s story. Katy Ellis manages the role with expert precision, a sharp eye for comedy, and a voice of her own too that gradually steals a greater piece of the action. To the point of temporarily taking over when Annie grinds to a halt under the weight of her own back story. “Why are you so ashamed of who you are?” Martha asks at one point, underlying the hidden agenda that shapes Annie’s fierce motivation.

The motivation, though, is never that clear cut and sometimes the complexity comes across as confusion, and the intricacies of Annie’s identity – her Jewishness and bisexuality – are glossed over. This is a show that relies on its performances, which are undeniably faultless and fascinating. The three-piece band, led by Musical Director Sam Young, adds drive, but the compositions never really change gear. The cycle ride took fifteen months and covered numerous and varied terrains, the ups and downs of which are not fully reflected in the score.

Ninety minutes is admittedly a short time in which to depict an epic chapter in a colourful life. It is skilfully and beautifully performed under Sarah Meadows’ flamboyant direction. That is the reality, but as Annie repeatedly pronounces ‘it’s not about reality; it’s about the story’. The story comes across as an incomplete journey, and we are also left suspecting that the real Annie might have been more interesting than the one she fabricated. At any rate, we are left wanting to know more. Andrusier and Ellis, in tandem, make sure of that. Their presence alone is worth the ride.



Reviewed on 24th July 2023

by Jonathan Evans


Photography by Danny Kaan



Previously reviewed at this venue:


How To Succeed In Business … | ★★★★★ | May 2023
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


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All by myself

All by Myself



All by myself

All by Myself

Online via AppleCart Arts

Reviewed – 23rd October 2020



“a more nuanced discussion and less dramatics would go far in improving this play”


All By Myself, directed by Jessica Bickel-Barlow and produced by Olivia Munk, is a one-woman show that tells the story of an unnamed woman (Charlie Blandford), alone in her apartment, but connected to the outside world through her YouTube account. The play explores the comparison between the image that appears on social media and real life, the former often carefully curated to achieve the desired results.

The performance begins with a pre-recorded video of the YouTube starlet trying to film the opening clips of her next upload. The woman obsesses over her hair, the positioning of her shoulders, and the tone of her voice as she attempts to simply greet her audience. When the woman ‘messes up’ or shows how she truly feels, the video pauses and we see the undesirable clips being deleted in editing. Her YouTube video is the only time that we hear our star speak, the rest of the play in near silence apart from a few exclamations and cries.

After this, the audience gets to meet the ‘real’ woman behind the vlogging camera. Immaculately dressed and wearing heavy make-up in her videos; in her apartment, the woman lounges in pyjamas with her hair tied back in a rough ponytail. She casually eats Coco Pops dry from the box and empty drinks bottles are strewn around her. She appears comfortable without the world watching her.

This soon changes as we see the woman obsessing over taking photos for social media. Peeling a potato for a homemade facemask, the woman meticulously scatters and repositions the potato peel for the desired photo opportunity. Later, our protagonist has a panic attack when she cannot get a good picture of her desk strewn with fairy lights.

The performance does raise some interesting points, mainly, about how we only sees a small snippet of a content creator’s life, but a few scenes border on the ridiculous. At the end of the play, the woman’s phone charger stops working, sending her into a frenzy. She quickly pulls out six potatoes and tries to devise a battery with nails and wire. It is doubtful even the most addicted phone users have tried this trick. This level of dramatics muddies the very real issues that the play is trying to address.

There are also clear opportunities to highlight real versus online that are not utilised. Throughout the show, the woman takes Instagram photos around her apartment. It would have been great if the ‘final product’ flashed up on screen so we could see both the curated result and the chaos behind it.

The script is also a little on the nose at times. For example, while filming, the woman thanks her audience before mumbling, “if you’re still watching or care or should care.” The woman’s desire for human connection could have easily been expressed through an overenthusiasm for comments or calling her audience her ‘family’ or ‘friends’ as many YouTubers do. This desperation, like the potato battery, feels overblown.

The set was nicely put together. The back of a kitchen unit and fridge faces the audience, a desk and chair are to the left and an armchair to the right. The lights are simple, only changing significantly when the woman naps after her panic attack and darkness sets in. Blamford is strong in her role as the woman, even though she has no lines to work with.

The themes of All By Myself are incredibly topical, especially as society becomes more aware of the adverse effects of social media. However, a more nuanced discussion and less dramatics would go far in improving this play.



Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Will Alder


All by Myself

Online via AppleCart Arts as part of the Dazed New World Festival 2020


Previously reviewed by Flora:
Tribes | ★★★★ | Putney Arts Theatre | January 2020
Important Art | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Jekyll & Hyde | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Minority Report | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | February 2020
Julius Caesar | ★★★★ | The Space | March 2020
The Haus Of Kunst | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Pippin | ★★★★ | The Garden Theatre | September 2020
Big Girl | ★★★ | Bread & Roses Theatre | September 2020
How to Live a Jellicle Life | ★★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | October 2020


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