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Confessional at the Southwark Playhouse

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 8th Oct 2016 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

 

To be honest, the situation in which I found myself last night was one I would go to any lengths to avoid.

I was sitting in a dingy pub watching all hell break loose as a bunch of low life screamed and shouted at each other, at times becoming violent. I didn’t feel comfortable; I didn’t know which of my fellow drinkers would kick off next. But, sadly, it is all too common a part of life in the 21st century.

Only, I wasn’t in a real pub, the ‘low life’ were actors, and the play they were performing was written in 1970, originally set in the 50s, and written by none other than Tennessee Williams. Nevertheless, it is bang up-to-date, with a drunken, mini-skirted woman tottering about on high heels, and with sex, racism and homophobia in the mix.

The fact that it feels so real is down to some first class acting, the imagination of director Jack Silver and the vision of theatre company Tramp.

The only thing that isn’t real is that the carpet isn’t sticky!

It isn’t so much curtain up as opening time as the audience is allowed to drift into what is essentially a pub. You buy your drink, find a table and start socialising.

You have no idea what is going to happen. You are not given a programme until you leave so you don’t know who are the actors and who are the punters - which makes it all the more believable. And even though I’m telling you something of what to expect you still won’t know what’s going to happen. For although the words may be the same no one peformance is. The actors are allowed to make it up as they go along. They don’t even decide in advance whether they are going to laugh or cry - which makes this production even more of a masterpiece.

I don’t want to give away too much about the actors for fear of identifying them for future audiences, but Holby City fans can’t fail to notice Rob Ostlere who played Arthur Digby until his death from cancer earlier this year. In Confessional he plays a grubby looking, beer swilling chef with a propensity to belch, but that characterisation doesn’t sit as easily on him as does the rather timid man who wants to keep out of the way of trouble.

I can’t write an appreciation of this play, however, without mentioning Lizzie Stanton who plays Leona, a beautician who lives in a trailer, and who gets increasingly drunk and emotional as the 95-minute production goes on. From the quake in her voice as she begins to lose control to her hysterical screaming, the intensity of her feelings is hard to bear - and then she has us feeling sorry for her as she cries over the death of her younger brother. A true tour de force.

But while this is a platform for some superb acting, imaginatively presented, the fact that it appears so real is also its downfall. It’s an assault on the senses, and way too much like the reality of life we all try to avoid.

 

Confessional is at the Southwark Playhouse until October 29

 

Box Office: 020 7407 0234

www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

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