In Good ‘Company’ at the Southwark Playhouse

Running until the 12th March 2011

We were glad to see this revival of a Sondheim classic – advertised as the first major revival in 15 years.  Having only heard some of the songs in isolation and with a vague idea about the plot, we found it fascinating to see it all in context.   The play stands on its own dramatically and we didn’t feel we were just waiting for the next song. 

It is Rupert Young as Bobby who needs to hold the action together, as the key character amongst several different vignettes with his married friends and girlfriends.   Some reviewers have expressed doubts over Young’s interpretation of the role, feeling that he should be a magnetic party animal who could have any girl he wants.  From the first sight of Bobby in his sweatpants, we have something different, almost a loser, who wins us round with his charm.   This less dominant approach allows us to see the performance as an ensemble piece where the relationships are more important than the people, revealing a co-dependency we might not otherwise have appreciated.  In the wrong hands, the character of Bobby could easily alienate – with his performance we felt that Rupert Young engaged us emotionally as well as intellectually.

There were many highlights, including the clever staging of ‘You Can Drive a Person Crazy’ and ‘Barcelona’.  The acting was universally of a high standard, with notable turns from Katie Brayben and Laura Main, who extracted the maximum comic effect from each situation.  Some of the songs demand extraordinary diction and technical ability which some of the actors struggled to achieve.

Would we recommend it?  Absolutely – there was plenty to enjoy and they got the important things right.  Next time we’ll book earlier though and take advantage of their airline style pricing.

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