Gielgud Theatre, London – until 30 March 2018
Marriage is the order of the day with Marianne Elliott and Chris Harper’s gender-switched version of Company. Bobbie (formerly Bobby) has reached aged 35 and is surrounded by an endless barrage of questions about why she’s single and when she’s going to become ‘whole’ and partner up.
Bunny Christie’s set design is artwork of its own in the way it reflects the isolation one can feel in life, especially when living in a city which can make you feel small. The set is made up of cool neon framed cubes which interconnect to make up the various parts of Bobbie’s life. The set also works well as its own character to contrast Bobbie. The cold stage is perfectly balanced by her vibrant red dress so she always stands out amongst the others.
The show avoids a formal linear structure and instead jumps from tableau to tableau, which is linked by a reoccurring surprise birthday party. The spitfire force that leads the show is Rosalie Craig who is humorous, enticing and charming in the lead role. On stage for pretty much the entire show, she performs with the stamina and vocal agility of a true star and will no doubt receive much acclaim for her portrayal.
Our leading lady’s married friends are an amusing group who have been given a modern makeover and been switched up to be more fitting for a contemporary audience. As the loving but smothering Paul and neurotic Jamie, Alex Gaumond and Jonathan Bailey are outstanding. Bailey’s performance of ‘Not Getting Married Today’ is a stellar tutorial in how to perform a patter song and he’s a complete revelation in the role.
The scene is entirely heightened and wholly hilarious. As the couple who are always playing a game of push and pull Sarah and Harry, Mel Giedroyc and Gavin Spokes are witty and very well performed. Susan (Daisy Maywood) and Peter (Ashley Campbell) are questioning whether marriage was the right choice for them whilst Jenny (Jennifer Saayeng) and David (Richard Henders) are settling and changing to keep one another happy.
Our final couple are Joanne and Larry who mirror Bobbi a huge amount. As Larry Ben Lewis is sweet and giving, whilst his partner Joanne, played by musical theatre veteran Patti LuPone warns Bobbi of the downfalls of falling into what society expects of you and how life can be empty if you simply become a wife and a lady who lunch. As expected, she is a scene stealer who brings earth shattering vocals.
Bobbi’s three boyfriends are played uniquely and faultlessly to highlight some of Bobbi’s issues and struggles, whilst bringing a realness to the show that is easily relatable. Matthew Seadon-Young plays Theo, who has a past with Bobbi but their snaps with each other quickly bring to light why they didn’t work out. Richard Fleeshman plays the dim but kind flight attendant, Andy very well; and George Blagden is the most hisptery-hipster ever in his portrayal of PJ. All three men deliver some stellar vocals and well rounded characters despite not having a huge amount of solo stage time each. The moment they join forces in You Could Drive a Person Crazy, with sleek choreography and super sharp Barber Shop harmonies, is one of the stand out moments of the production.
Company is a show for a 2018 audience. Well directed with boat loads of humour and an equal amount of subtlety, its opens up the question of whether marriage is for everyone and prompts us to examine our own choices. Take yourself down to the Gielgud Theatre to see the musical which is sure to sweep the next Olivier Awards.
photo credit: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg