Southwark Playhouse, London
The Rink at the Southwark Playhouse is theatrical brilliance, made even greater by a spectacular cast, including Caroline O’Connor who understudied Diane Langton as Angel in the 1988 London production of the show. With a book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb, the show focuses on Anna, the owner of a roller skating rink on a fading seaside boardwalk, who has decided to sell it and move on. This goes smoothly until her prodigal daughter, Angel, returns on a mission to reconnect with her past. Through a series of beautiful songs and flashbacks, the pair tries to deal with their past resentments and move on with their lives.
Adam Lenson’s production is subtlety and sparkle perfectly combined, with the complexity and fragility of the mother-daughter relationship the firm focus. The small Southwark Playhouse is masterly transformed into the cast off roller-rink with Bec Chippendale’s minimalistic set providing a backdrop which will work equally as well on a bigger stage when this show hopefully takes its place in the West End.
As well as the story, the cast is the core of this show. The leads are meaty roles so it’s great that we have two brilliantly talented women heading the show. The extensive ovation after O’Connor’s first solo, ‘Chief Cook and Bottle Washer’, proved that she is the embodiment of star power. Caroline is raw, ugly, humorous and emotive, all combined to create a masterclass in musical theatre and a performance which leaves you wanting more and more. With equal measures of ferocity and warmth, it’s O’Connor who steals this show and makes it as special as it is.
Despite a few brief moments of vocal/accent faults, Gemma Sutton gives a stellar performance as daughter Angel and matches O’Connor in oomph and vigour. The pair are extremely well cast; pulling off the mother-daughter relationship extremely realistically whilst supplying laugh out loud joy, as well as tear in your eye sentimentality.
Fabian Aloise’s choreography is again simplistic perfection. Tap dancing on roller skates- what more could you want? The tight cast do an exceptional job of using the space without making it feel cramped. Each member is outstanding but mention must go to Stewart Clarke as Dino who suitably transitions from loved up to angry at the world; Ben Redfern who is sweet as Lenny but shines in What Happened To The Old Days? and Jason Winter who dances with such power and precision that you can’t help but be drawn to him.
For a technically brilliant show with performances that will leave you wanting to return to the Coloured Lights again and again, go see The Rink. This is musical theatre at it’s best- lets just hope that the rink keeps rolling in London.
The Rink runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 23rd June
photo credit: Darren Bell