A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Joe Fredericks & Holly Reiss for MokitaGrit Productions and Danielle Tarento in association with Southwark Playhouse presents



Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim


Book by George Furth


Musical Direction by Oli Jackson


Directed and Produced by Joe Fredericks

Southwark Playhouse

2 February - 12 March 2011



The Southwark Playhouse is a snazzy place under the arches of London Bridge, very hip and therefore, the perfect venue for this show. Seating on three sides of the stage was packed with the chatterati ,I recognised Jonathan Ross and several other television personalities. The cast of fourteen, each with major contributions to make, came on and off the stage from all sides making it a real theatre in the round experience. The singing, dancing and acting was top quality; an experienced and talented cast played the five couples, three girlfriends and committed bachelor, with as much passion and commitment as one could wish for... It is a Stephen Sondheim classic, so why did it fail to engage?

Company was a hit on Broadway in 1970, but the attempt to update it here with laptop computers and phone gadgets is a mistake because the show is hopelessly dated by its' gender politics. Bobby (Robert Young) wakes up in his chic bachelor pad on his 35th birthday to the realisation that he is alone. Through his eyes, we examine the relationships of the five couples who are his close friends and the choice he could make of a bride for himself between three girlfriends who present themselves provocatively in bra and knickers for consideration. The wives fare no better, with Amy (Cassidy Janson)polishing her groom's shoes in her bridal dress, Susan (Laura Main) playing the southern belle who faints continually, Jenny (Julia Nagle) pretending to be stoned to please her husband but really happy only when she's sent to the kitchen to get food, Sarah (Leigh McDonald) dieting obsessively but sneaking brownies when the men aren't looking. Siobhan McCarthy appeared as the more cynical Joanne with some promise, but then slaughtered 'The Ladies Who Lunch', one of the more memorable songs from this rather forgettable show and could think of nothing better to do after three husbands than to make a pass at Bobby. That said, there are some great songs. 'Sorry-Grateful' sums up the ambivalent male attitude to commitment in this show and was beautifully sung. The frenetic energy of 'Another Hundred People' and 'Getting Married Today' was delivered perfectly by Michelle Bishop as Marta and Cassiday Janson as Amy. Katie Brayben was very funny and touching as the ditzy girlfriend April, as was Julia Nagle as Jenny. I would have liked to have heard more of Greg Castiglioni's wonderful voice as Paul.

The relationships of the couples are winsomely dysfunctional - the girls too eccentric or uninteresting, so what to do? It wasn't Rupert Young's fault that I didn't care much for Bobby, it was difficult to learn anything about his character as he was the audience's cipher for everything that happened on stage, remaining largely passive throughout. He muses while his friends sing a little too insistently about how charming is our 'Bobby booby' and the show moves to the unsatisfactory finale of 'Being Alive', which could finish any show and didn't relate to the thematic questions raised about marriage at all. This says a lot about confused attitudes to the issue in the early days of 'sexual liberation' but doesn't say it very clearly. However, the audience seemed to enjoy the show, Jonathan Ross was on his feet clapping, so maybe it's just me. If you like this sort of thing, Mazel tov!



Southwark Playhouse
Shipwright Yard (Corner of Tooley St. & Bermondsey St.), London, SE1 2TF
Evenings: 7.20pm, Matinees: 3.30pm

Tickets: £10/£16.50/£22.50 'Airline style' pricing, the earlier you book the cheaper the tickets




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