Theatre: Company at the Southwark Playhouse

One thing that hit me seeing Company at the Southwark Playhouse Tuesday night, was how the opening few notes can really be an ear worm. I doubt anyone leaving the theatre after this production doesn't want to go up to someone and yell, "BOBBY! BOBBY! BOBBY-BABY!" Or perhaps punch somebody who comes up to them and says something like that.

Company has no plot to speak of, but through a series of vignettes, gives some idea about Robert, a single straight(ish) man turning 35 and his smug married friends. Its about the lives of middle class New Yorkers, with their eccentricities and foibles, so you may find yourself struggling to see its relevance to modern day London. But of course this is Sondheim, it's a slick production with a great looking, and great sounding cast, so you can overlook that bit...

Bobby, played by Rupert Young, is not an immediately likable character. But as the show progresses, Young's performance makes you feel as if you know him. Or at least you understand all that womanising and coke snorting... And his final song is knockout. The rest of the cast are just as impressive. Cassidy Janson as Amy deftly sings "Getting Married Today" with its machine-gun consonants, and Greg Castiglioni playing her husband has an incredible tenor voice. Siobhán McCarthy as Joanne stops the show with her performance of the song "Ladies Who Lunch". Actually she was stopping the show before the song with her interpretation of the role and channeling Bette Davis (too bad there is no planned revival of Applause).

I tend to think the themes work best leaving them in the late 1960s early 1970s as the discussions seem a little quaint or anachronistic moving them anywhere else. Perhaps the production is suggesting lines like: 
Have I got a girl for you, boy! Hoo, boy!
Dumb! And with a weakness for sazarac slings!
You give her even the fruit and she swings...
Could have been overheard conversations from television sports commentators...

If there was one drawback to the show it would be the pacing. Clunky material aside, the first half plods, entrances take too long and dialogue is not dispensed with quickly enough. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the slow delivery of individual lines dragged things on and exposes the weaknesses of the original material.

Notwithstanding this, it's a great night out and running the Southwark Playhouse until 12 March... Catch it if you can. Perhaps a longer run elsewhere wouldn't be too much of a stretch either... Or at least a new cast recording?

The Southwark Playhouse has a great bar area which was where we recorded the first impression boo's... It's a nice space. I'll drink to that...
Listen!
Listen!

The Sondheim Cult Society also talks to Young and McCarthy here as well...

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