Confidence, Southwark Playhouse | Review

Southwark Playhouse 
Reviewed on Friday 25th May 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

The Southwark Playhouse is a hub for amazing theatre and has been the home to some of my favourite, fresh, exciting, talent-filled productions. Unfortunately, the first UK revival of Judy Upton's 1998 play Confidence is not one of these shows. There is nostalgia and some positives but overall the play feels shaky and underdeveloped. 

The plot of Confidence is pretty random. There's a dead hamster, ice cream, flakes and fake dolphins. Ella is on a mission to make money and move to LA where she can mingle with celebrities and live a dream life. For the moment she is stuck with her friend Dean on the pier of a seaside town. From here we see the characters strive for love and money.

Overall the piece feels slow, simmering but never reaching the boil. What could have been explosive moments are dimmed down and any real drama happens too fast for it to have an impact.

The standout performances of the show come from Will Pattle and Rhys Yates who could genuinely be brothers. The two humourously bounce off one another as they vie for money and Ella's love.  Will is particularly impressive, especially towards the end - a great professional debut. Anna Crichlow is funny and random as cafe worker, Ruby. Her quirky role provides some comic relief whilst also hinting at a more painful side.

As the commanding, Machiavellian girl who oozes sex appeal and fire, Tanya Burr falls flat. It’s certainly admirable that she is taking steps to make the jump into theatre but taking on a lead role, in an intimate space, with very little to work with has not led to the greatest debut. The character of Ella is someone who is able to wrap people (specifically men) around her finger and make them believe she can offer them everything. Whilst there were brief moments of fluidity and power, ultimately Tanya’s newness and one-dimensional acting is sub-standard and it's hard to believe Ella's power over people. 

From a number of sold out performances, it’s evident that Tanya’s fans are booking to see the show and whilst it’s great that this could potentially be introducing new audiences to theatre, this show is far from suitable for her younger viewers. Of course that is not Tanya’s fault at all and this is clearly a step towards her maturing her career, but just a warning to anyone going with younger children that whilst this is a 90s throwback show, the emphasis is on much deeper, less child-friendly themes.

The set design by Amelia Jane Hankin is suitably 90s filled, with the carpet and retro kiosk designs alongside little features such as a walkman adding to the atmosphere. 

Something about Confidence just doesn't click. Given more time and a bit of a rework it could be a layered, interesting show but in it's current state there is a unity and flow missing. Hopefully the energy and verve will come and those seeing future performances will experience a solid (if random) story, alongside some wonderful 90s nostalgia.

Confidence runs at the Southwark Playhouse until June 16th

photo credit: Helen Murray

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