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
Boundless Theatre present
the UK première of
By Glenn Waldron
29 March – 22 April
Boundless Theatre Artistic Director Rob Drummer today announces the full company for the UK première of Natives, a new play by Glenn Waldron. Previously Company of Angels, Boundless Theatre produces exhilarating new theatre in the UK in conversation with Europe. Drummer directs Ella Purnell (A), Fionn Whitehead (B), and Manish Gandhi (C) in the production which opens at the Southwark Playhouse on 31 March, with previews from 29 March, and runs until 22 April.
“Where are the grown-ups to do something, where are the grown-ups in this story?”
Three countries. Three teenagers. One average, life-altering day. A young man battles with feelings of love and violence. Another is stuck with the image of someone being pushed from a rooftop. And a girl must choose between her friends and her conscience.
Natives is a rallying cry to a generation of unlikely heroes and celebrates coming of age online in a chaotic world.
Glenn Waldron is a London-based playwright and writer. A former magazine editor and journalist, Glenn was Editor of i-D magazine and his feature writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Independent, Vogue, W magazine, and other publications. His first play Forever House premiered at the Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth and his work has since been performed in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and the USA. Upcoming productions include The Here And This And Now at TRP and End of the Pier at Hackney Showroom. Glenn also lectures in journalism and pop culture at the University of the Arts London.
Ella Purnell plays A. She is making her professional stage debut. She was one of Screen International Stars of Tomorrow 2010. For film, she will appear in the forthcoming Churchill, her credits include Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Never Let me Go, Maleficent, Intruders and Kick Ass 2.
Fionn Whitehead plays B. He is making his professional stage debut. He was one of Screen Internationals Stars of Tomorrow 2016. For television his credits include Him; and for film, he will appear in the forthcoming Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and The Children Act.
Manish Gandhi plays C. He was included in the British Council’s 2016 global list of 33 cultural influencers from around the world promoting freedom and equality. For theatre his credits include Now We Are Here (Young Vic), Brown Shakespeare (Efua Theodora Sutherland Drama Studio, Legon-Accra), Rizwan (FTII, Pune), Limbo and Cock (National Centre of Performing Arts, Mumbai). For television, Rides upon the Storm, Judwa Raja and Na Bole Tum; and for film, That Transient Interval, Chai Shai Biscuits and Rizwaan.
Director – Rob Drummer
Designer – Amelia Jane Hankin
Movement – John Ross
Video Design – Cate Blanchard
Lighting – Zoe Spurr
Sound Design – Father
Boundless Theatre (formerly Company of Angels) produces exhilarating new theatre in the UK in conversation with Europe. For fifteen years, they have produced and toured new plays, nationally and internationally and created projects and experiences that young adult audiences share in. They nurture and empower the next generation of visionary artists, brings plays, diverse perspectives and ideas from Europe and engage with a range of artistic forms beyond theatre-making.
29 March – 22 April
8pm Monday – Sunday
Matinee 3.30pm Saturdays and Tuesday 4th April only
£20 | £16 concessions | £12 preview performances
Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6BD
020 7407 0234