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The Theatreguide.London Review

Teddy
Southwark Playhouse      June 2015 

This musical tale of 1950s rock'n'roll fans opens with far too little energy and takes far too long to warm up. But it gets there eventually and rewards those with patience. 

Tristan Bernays' script introduces us to a boy and girl who separately prepare for a night out, meet-cute, spar for a while and then finally get together just as plot twists cast a shadow over their future.

It's written in a rap-like rhymed verse that sometimes suggests Steven Berkoff's East or John Godber's Bouncers. But this is enervated Godber and emasculated Berkoff, far too rarely generating any energy or catching any telling imagery. 

The action is punctuated by songs from an onstage band (who also play a role in the plot), but Dougal Irvine's songs also play like pale imitations with none of the raw vitality of 1950s rock'n'roll. A few bars of a recording of Bill Haley and the Comets played at one point immediately put the rest of the score to shame.

(To be fair, the obligatory post-curtain calls medley of r'n'r standards like Johnny B Good shows that the band can rock when given the right material.) 

What carries the evening and allows it to build to an emotionally involving and theatrically alive second half is the talent and personalities of the two leading actors. 

Joseph Prowen and Jennifer Kirby are both attractive, charming and talented, and slowly build convincing and sympathetic characterisations that blend adolescent swagger with adolescent shyness. 

We come to like both characters and wish them well just as the story begins to turn against them, and it is that connection to them rather than the script that makes the play finally come alive. 

Of course director Eleanor Rhode must share the credit for guiding Prowen and Kirby to such rounded and attractive performances, and for making us look forward to seeing each of them again sometime when they have stronger material to work with.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Teddy - Southwark Playhouse 2015 


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