The Rink – Southwark Playhouse until 23rd June
Review By Caroline Hanks-Farmer
I’ve stated many times before that as a reviewer you have to take the rough with the smooth. You can’t pick and choose and recently I’ve gone through a spate of mildly enjoyable but not earth shattering theatre visits. Whilst you might wonder why I continue to do it, it is for the very reason that The Rink left me feeling. You hope that you will discover something a little bit special, the revival of The Rink in my opinion is exactly that – special with a capital S!
Anna, (Caroline O’Connor) an Italian housewife who runs a roller-skating rink on the Eastern seaboard, is about to sell it to developers until her estranged daughter, Angel, (Gemma Sutton) returns after a long absence, hoping to save the rink and patch things up with her mother.
Photo Credit Darren Bell
The Rink opened on Broadway in 1984 and starred two absolute legends Chita Rivera and Liza Minelli (Anna and Angel respectively). You’d be forgiven for thinking how can we match that for casting. The answer is, easily in my opinion, having seen this production. Both O’Connor and Sutton are not only in perfect harmony together they are sublime in their characterisations. We see the right amount of angst of someone growing up from Sutton. Becoming an adult was not easy. Losing her beloved father at an early age and dealing with the discovery of her memories being ultimately a lie, Sutton deals us a feisty and yet tender performance. Vocally extremely strong, her musical numbers were a triumph.
What we see with O’Connor’s performance is the heart-breaking struggle of trying to keep her family together and inherited business alive. But times change and so do pass-times. A failed marriage due to abandonment, and a daily struggle with her defiant daughter, along with trying to not lose her own identity, was all absolutely palpably felt by the audience. O’Connor delivers an immensely powerful performance.
Photo Credit Darren Bell
Whilst the production unquestionably focus on Anna and Angel, this is also a terrific ensemble (Ross Dawes, Michael Lin, Elander Moore, Ben Redfern, Jason Winter), with every member, bringing multiple characters to life.
Not least, this can be said for Stewart Clarke who plays Dino (Husband/Father). Clarke takes the audience on his own journey from attractive fun-loving young man, tied down at too an early age, to abandoning father leaving his young daughter to think he was dead. Was this a ruse so that he could pursue his own happiness – selfish man or tortured soul, too young to deal with responsibilities? The audience are made to feel every aspect of Clarkes character. Our feelings range from love, disdain and pity – a testament to Clarkes charismatic delivery.
However, as I said, this cast has it all, strong vocals, brilliantly innovative choreography (Fabian Aloise) expertly executed (who knew you could tap dance on roller skates – I can’t even stand up on them!), they are tight, slick and perfectly in sync with one another. This extremely hard-working cast work as one and it is a joy to watch.
Credit must go to Adam Lenson on his creativity and direction, which allows us, as an audience to fully appreciate how special both this production and cast are.
This rare revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical really needs to be seen, to appreciate its beauty. There are some lovely numbers in it, which really do compliment its charming and endearing quality. It’s a short run at Southwark Playhouse but I truly feel this production deserves several more spins around ‘The Rink‘ and definitely has a future life.
THE RINK is produced by Jack Maple and Brian Zeilinger, with associate producers Corey & Jessica Brunish, Stuart Burrows & Jonny Clines and Daniel G.Peterson.
25 May to 23 June 2018
77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD
Monday – Friday 7.30pm
Saturday and Tuesday 3.00pm & 7.30pm
Tickets: £25 and £20 concessions (from £14 during previews)
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Before the show I recorded a short video interview with our Angel – Gemma Sutton – Watch out for it soon in the Interviews Section of the website.