Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews


Rita, Sue & Bob Too

Out of Joint, Octagon Theatre Bolton and the Royal Court Theatre , Theatr Clwyd, Mold. , February-08-18
Rita, Sue & Bob Too by Out of Joint, Octagon Theatre Bolton and the Royal Court Theatre
When Andrea Dunbar's play was first performed in 1982 it was the language and the simulated on-stage sex that caused the fuss. Now in 2018 it's the perception of under-age grooming of two schoolgirls by an older married man that almost got it banned from the Royal Court Theatre, the very house that gave it life in the first place.

I've never seen the play before, nor indeed the successful film that followed, and what I saw was a raw, very funny but also moving play about two feisty but naive girls trying to shake off their council estate backgrounds.

This production does contain something I've never before seen in a theatre. When Bob has sex with the girls in his car with his buttocks bouncing away centre stage I became aware that the house lights had been partially raised. Then I realised why, it was so that anyone who wished to leave could. Two people did, followed by two more when the lights went down again. I wasn't too surprised, the scene did feel quite graphic as well as showing the unerotic, and often funny, absurdity of it all.

Kate Wasserberg's fast and furious production never lets the pace flag, there's no interval which helps. She also has a very good cast.

Taj Atwal is a winning Rita, a feisty dreamer who hopes for a fairy tale ending and may, or more likely may not, have got one.

Gemma Dobson, in her professional stage debut, is the more down to earth Sue who does seem to end up with the possibility of a life beyond the estate.

The two actresses give a very clear portrait of the girls' close friendship and of its slow drifting apart.

James Atherton is excellent as Bob, randy, cocky, a shameless liar but undeniably council estate charismatic.

Samantha Robinson as Michelle, Bob's wife, gives a lovely portrait as the glamorous rock on which the marriage should be built. It's not her fault that Bob keeps dashing himself against it to bring about his own wreckage.

Sally Bankes and David Walker are the Mum and Dad, Sue's, who carry their marital rows with them wherever they go.

I am so glad that this production has enabled me to finally catch up with this play and to experience Andrea Dunbar's very particular way with the working class dialogue she grew up with.

Reviewed by: Victor Hallett

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