THEATRE REVIEW: Rita, Sue and Bob Too ★★★★

Rita, Sue and Bob Too
Bristol Old Vic
Tuesday 3rd October 2017

Originally staged at The Royal Court back in 1982, Andrea Dunbar's second play after the success of 'The Arbor’, which again staged at The Royal Court in 1980 after being wrote in green biro on exercise book at the age of 15, ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’ was submitted into the The Young Writer's Festival in 1982, where the story depicts the lives of babysitters Rita (Taj Atwal) and Sue (Gemma Dobson), who have sexual encounters with their employer Bob (James Atherton), a man who works with Sue's dad and is also married to Michelle (Samantha Robinson).

It's not everyday where you watch a production that within the first scene we see two underage girls having sex with a 27 year old man, but in this instance that's the case, and can't help but laugh because that's the initial reaction to awkwardness, but over the minute exchange between Sue and Bob in the car, with Rita in the back seat, it soon becomes unbearable to watch, but this in no way is criticism towards this extraordinary piece of theatre, it's very much a compliment to Dunbar's incredibly realistic vision to what life was like back in 1982, where this sort of action was not frowned upon back then. Andrea passed away at the age of 29 from a brain hemorrhage, but at the age of 17 writing this production, she took and remembered everything that went on in her estate to create extracts of scenes to then send off to Max Stafford-Clark, the artistic director of The Royal Court at the time.

The chemistry on stage in this production in particular then must really come through due to the subject matters that uphold, and it really shows from all the performers involved, and I think that's largely because these characters are amalgamations of real life people; this was Gemma Dobson's professional stage debut, and you would be surprised by that when you see just how much she immerses herself in the character. Taj Atwal brings Rita to the focus on stage with such enthusiasm that you can really see that herself, as well as the rest of the company, really feel passionately towards this piece of theatre and want to tell Dunbar's story to justice!

The music of the 1980’s was iconic, and what I didn't realise until after the production was just how all the tracks used in this production were specifically chosen from the creative team and placed in chronological order of when released in the year of 1982 to seamlessly bring all the scenes together in transitions. It almost becomes the only time in this production where your mind can breath through this thought-provoking production that rattles on at such a high speed.

Overall, ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’ for me is as relevant today as it ever was before, and I think that's what makes it such a success - it's a production where even after leaving the theatre you still feel like you're in that world that has been thrown at you on stage for the last 80 minutes because everything that has unfolded still happens to this day, though only after watching the production do I see it more now than ever!


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