Rita, Sue and Bob Too!, Theatre Review. St. Helens Theatre Royal.

Dannielle Malone, Paul Opacic, Nikki Sanderson in Rita, Sue and Bob Too! Photograph by Ian D. Hall

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Tina Malone, Nikki Sanderson, Paul Opacic, Dannielle Malone, Mickey Finn, Elyn Kennedy, Paul Malone.

In 2011 Andrea Dunbar’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too! had a sell out run at the St. Helens Theatre Royal, as it comes round again it is easy to see why this portrayal of Margaret Thatcher’s council estate Britain is such a popular and long lasting hit production.

The only difference between this production and the sad end to the life of Andrea Dunbar is the absolute joy and comedy felt throughout this fine adaptation and under the direction of Sylvie Gatrill, the inspired cast were seemingly given the right and free reign to enjoy what can be seen as one of the forgotten classics of English Literature and playwriting.

The interplay between all the cast in this particular production was absolutely spot on and in the three main characters of Rita, Bob and Sue, it has to be said that the casting was inspired as all three actors played the parts they were assigned with great relish, which added to testimony of ideas that Andrea Dunbar was getting across in her writing. The two young school girls were portrayed by the excellent and well observed Dannielle Malone and the sensational Nikki Sanderson. The scene where the main protagonists find out about the affair was both incredibly realistic and chilling but both women gave it a sense of heart that could have been left out in other adaptations.

The character of Bob is a difficult one to feel sympathy for. In truth his actions are beyond the pale but Paul Opacic’s reading of the bored husband who embarks on the sordid affair with the young girls has a touch of the charming about it and as his relationship with his wife crumbles further, the sadness in his eyes becomes more prevalent.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too! can be seen to resonate with today’s audience, set amongst the height of the 1980’s recession. The parallel of lack of work, alcohol dependency and running away from a life that is settled is all too clear to be seen in today’s world. It seems that no matter how much life goes on, 30 years really doesn’t change a nation and the despondency it can fall into.

This superb version of a play celebrating its 30th Anniversary is wonderfully cast and acted with dedication to the original idea. A tremendous night out that Andrea Dunbar would no doubt have approved of.

Ian D. Hall