Shook, Southwark Playhouse | Review

Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Friday 1st November 2019 by Shaun Dicks

Now in it’s tenth year, the Papatango writing prize is back. Last year’s winner, The Funeral Director, was a rousing success and ended up going on a national tour. After a record 1,406 entries for this year’s prize, the winner is Shook by Samuel Bailey. One of the prizes, a month’s run at the famous Southwark Playhouse.

We found ourselves in prison to follow the stories of Jonjo (Josef Davies), Cain (Josh Finan) and Riyad (Ivan Oyik), three inmates who all have young children and are taking a childcare class run by Grace (Andrea Hall). Throughout we stay in the classroom where we learn all about the three men, find out why they’re in there, see who they are as people and watch them train to be fathers. But as Cain points out, ‘You can’t teach anyone to be a parent.’

There are many things that make this show great. One of them is the humour. The jokes within this script from Bailey are a laugh riot. ‘What does MBE mean? Massive bellend.’ and ‘Have you grown up in a cupboard?’ are particular highlights delivered by the outrageously loud mouthed but hilarious Cain.

But what makes the humour so brilliant is the sucker punches that are handed out by Bailey later. They are brutally honest and cutting, like when they are talking about their children and Cain proclaims that ‘They’ll be in here too soon.’ and when Jonjo finally opens up about his dad leaving his family and Cain replies ‘Fair enough, your old man fucked off. That’s normal.’.

However, all get to shine in their different ways. Riyad is intelligent and full of confidence and he is looking to get his Maths GCSE. His confidence is on full display when he says, ‘I’m going to make Equilateral Triangles my bitch.’ Jonjo is new to the prison and is a very shy man. He takes his time to open up to the others and as he does, you warm up to him. As soon as you do, he hits you with the sucker punch of how he got to where he is. And Grace is a wonderful anchor for the entire show, giving the other characters someone to bounce off throughout.

What really stands out in this show is the cohesion between the performers. There is an outstanding rapport between all four actors. The bounce back of dialogue between all is seamless and brilliant. A testament to director George Turvey, who clearly worked his performers hard to get that level of cohesion.

Papatango and the Southwark Playhouse have met and superseded all expectations. The whole package is simply superb, from the writing to the performances. This. Play. Is. Phenomenal. It affects you and that is the sign of excellent theatre. Shook will take you and you will not return the same.

Shook runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 23rd November 2019

photo credit: The Other Richard

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