Rita, Sue and Bob Too
Royal Court, London/Touring
CO-PRODUCED by Out of Joint, Bolton Octagon and the Royal Court, this production, controversially cancelled and then reinstated by the London theatre, is an insubstantial version of Rita, Sue and Bob Too.
It’s tough to say that, especially given the acclaim which greeted the teenage Andrea Dunbar’s work. First performed in 1982 and made into a successful film soon afterwards, the play is semi-autobiographical. Dunbar’s life was bleak and she was dead at 29 after time in a women’s refuge and escalating problems with alcohol.
Her depiction of 15-year-old friends and their fling with a morosely married man won plaudits and the media loved Dunbar for a while.
There are truisms in her play — life under Thatcher was grim for many, especially those in precarious work and Bob (James Atherton) fears that his loss of income will also lose him his wife, children and house.
In fact, it’s the loss of his erection that’s a plot pivot and it’s played for laughs, as is most of the text, but Atherton does show some of the fragility that we sense underlies the cocky demeanour.
It’s hard to say how the loss of its co-director Max Stafford-Clark for alleged “lewd comments” to Out of Joint staff has affected this production — the performances are somewhat declamatory and a little more intimacy between the players might have elicited some melancholy.
Gemma Dobson as Sue has presence and there are very decent performances from Taj Atwal as Rita, Samantha Robinson as betrayed wife Michelle and Sally Bankes as Sue’s comic battleaxe mother. Yet the final showdown, a full-on shrieking match, descends into caricature.
After the run at the Royal Court, the play goes to Huddersfield, Mold and Glasgow. Perhaps there, audiences will respond empathetically because, while it would be unfair to say that the Sloane Square audience meant to mock, there was the discomforting feeling that theatregoers were laughing at the working class, not with them.
Runs until January 27, box office: royalcourttheatre.com and then tours until February 17, details: outofjoint.co.uk
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.