The Rink: Southwark Playhouse, London
Reviewed 1st June 2018
The Rink, which features a fantastic score from Tony and Olivier Award-Winning John Kander and Fred Ebb and book by Tony Award-Winning Terrence McNally, comes back to make its first London revival in 20 years. This revitalised production is directed by Adam Lenson and choreographed by Fabian Aloise.
The story focuses on love and loss and the true meaning of home. It is about Anna who is about to sell her roller-skating rink to developers when estranged daughter, Angel, returns in the hope of saving both the rink and her relationship with her mother. In essence this is a musical about forgiveness and relationships with those you love.
This production is absolutely brilliant! It is hard to find any faults. It’s full of emotion with an engaging plot that’s easy to get wrapped up in and lose yourself in the beauty of the exceptional story telling. Gemma Sutton and Caroline O’Connor are just perfect in the role. Gemma’s version of Angel is relatable and the range of emotion she demonstrates throughout the show is fantastic. The shifts in time to show both women’s memories are seamless and Gemma plays a 5-year old Angel just as well as she does the 30 year old who comes home to confront her mother, Anna. Her vocals are a delight to listen to and the score by Kander and Ebb is just brilliant. Caroline O’Connor’s Anna is outstanding. She completely owns the stage and draws all attention to herself – in the best way. Again, the shifts from past and present are dealt with seamlessly and Caroline excels as the complex character Anna. Her vocals are brilliant, as is her fantastic comic timing. What makes this production stand out from others is the relationship between Anna and Angel – it is truly believable and portrayed excellently by both Gemma and Caroline.
All of the cast were excellent in role. Stewart Clarke particularly impresses as Angel’s wayward father Dino. His visible anguish and torment at being tied down by marriage at a young age is fantastic. Again the relationships created onstage are fantastic to watch. Each member of the small cast have a multitude of important roles and are onstage almost the entire show. With minimal costume changes and no set changes it demonstrates a fantastic ability to tell a story and become a character on behalf of all of the cast.
The direction by Adam Lenson is superb. The small, intimate space is perfect for a show about the tense relationship between mother and daughter. The use of space is perfect with the whole stage being utilised at all times and yet still providing clear sight lines for all the audience members. Seeing as the venue is so small choreographer, Fabian Aloise could have been forgiven for limiting the choreography, after all this is not a dance show, but his clever choreography which is interwoven extensively throughout the whole show truly enhances the production. You certainly don’t see a tap dancing routine on roller skates very often!
The set, designed by Bec Chippendale, is fantastic to set the scene of a dilapidated skating rink and the lighting by Matt Daw certainly adds the wow factor to this outstanding show.
This production really is a must-see. It is heartfelt and has the ability to draw the audience in and take them on a journey. The beauty of this musical is how honest and relatable it is – the idea of looking at both Mother and Daughter’s perspectives of the past and how it is conceived in different ways is excellent. Lots of people will relate to the complexities of relationships such as those shown in the production. It is a shame that it is only in London for such a short time. Do whatever you can to see this musical and lets hope it doesn’t take another 20 years to return to the UK.
The Rink runs at Southwark Playhouse until 23rd June. For information and tickets click here.
Photo Credit: Darren Bell