Ride at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant Review: A Triumph of Story Telling

Tuesday 25 July 2023

While it may not boast the grandeur of a West End spectacle, its simplicity and sincerity are what set it apart"

Southwark Playhouse Elephant

Embarking on a wondrous return, the dynamic musical Ride, crafted by Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams, is back to captivate audiences with an enchanting odyssey like no other. Having previously seen this show as part of the Vault Festival in 2020, it's amazing to see how it has developed and become even more of a theatrical gem.

This thrilling new production delves into the extraordinary escapades of Annie Londonderry, an indomitable spirit who shattered barriers in 1895 by becoming the first woman to cycle around the globe. Fearlessly challenging societal norms and religious expectations, Annie spins a captivating tale that dances on the edge of truth and fiction, skillfully molding narratives to serve her greater cause. She fearlessly embraces her convictions, even if it means bending the boundaries of morality. Wrapped around Annie's finger from the moment the metaphorical curtain is raised, we are spellbound by her storytelling prowess.

This British masterpiece takes us on an emotional rollercoaster ride, filled with hearty laughter and unflinchingly honest revelations about life and society, leaving a profound impact. With every twist and turn, the characters' raw emotions and vulnerabilities are beautifully portrayed, drawing us into their world and ensnaring our hearts until the closing moments.

The brilliance of Ride shines through the remarkable performances of its two-person cast: Liv Andrusier as Annie and Katy Ellis as Martha. Their chemistry is palpable, and they breathe life into their characters with heartfelt authenticity. Liv's portrayal of Annie is a multi-dimensional masterpiece, blending determination and defiance as she navigates a male-dominated world, striving to be heard. Her captivating Bostonian drawl lures us in, and her vocal prowess keeps us enchanted as she flawlessly delivers the demanding score, showcasing a masterclass in acting through song.

Under the direction of Sarah Meadows, Liv's performance radiates authenticity, leaving no doubt that this role was destined for her. Her portrayal of Annie exudes old Hollywood star quality, and her stage presence is truly remarkable.

Katy Ellis skilfully takes on the role of Martha. With comic flair and charming wit, Ellis brings Martha's thoughts to life, infusing the character with delightful nuance. While Annie weaves the narrative, Martha's hesitance and humorous antics provide the perfect balance, eliciting laughter from the audience. Throughout the show, Katy astounds as she embodies various characters in Annie's story, infusing each with unique purpose and unveiling layers of compassion, empathy, and a hint of romance.

Both Liv and Katy breathe a profound humanity into these characters, capturing the hearts of the audience. Their nuanced performances are a testament to their immense talent and dedication, leaving us in awe of their emotional range.

The minimalist yet ingenious set design by Amy Jane Cook effortlessly transports us to multiple locations, aided by clever use of props and set pieces that set our imaginations free. Matt Powell's projections expand the space, while Andrew Johnson's sound design adds an extra layer of brilliance, spotlighting the subtlest of sounds.

At the heart and soul of Ride lies its soul-stirring music. The mesmerising melodies and emotionally charged lyrics take us on an unforgettable journey, resonating deeply within us. While some musical moments may seem repetitive, they ultimately deliver an emotional and vocal punch, showcasing the brilliance of new British compositions.

Ride is an absolute triumph of storytelling, talent, and artistic vision. This emotionally charged musical takes us on a profound journey of self-reflection and connection. While it may not boast the grandeur of a West End spectacle, its simplicity and sincerity are what set it apart. Ride showcases the very essence of what theatre can offer, leaving us yearning to relive this magical journey again and again.

Reviewed on Monday 24th July by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Danny Kaan

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}