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

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Lee Latchford-Evans, Crissy Rock, Micky Finn, Ann Marie Davies, Emily Fleeshman, Olivia Sloyan, Derren Ankers.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too! is a play which asks so much of an audience that it might miss the very mark it is actually aiming for if not delivered with great care and attention and moulded gently by a Director who sees past the big picture and who can really push the unseen and near obscure to the very front.

With Sylvie Gatrill in the hot seat at the Theatre Royal, the play though can only be seen as tender and hard hitting in equal and bountiful measure and whereas the scenes in which might drive home a different message are there to be witnessed, it is with great depth on Ms. Gatrill’s part that what comes across is then further slow degradation of a country that has floundered and sank into its pit of self destruction since World War Two.

Lee Latchford-Evans must be congratulated for his performance as Bob. Arguably not a natural to the stage in terms of acting, his presentation as the bed hopping Bob, nevertheless should draw favourable comparisons to those who played the part before him. All art is seen to be equal in the eyes of the many and for Lee Latchford-Evans, away from the 90s music scene and Steps, the step up to theatre may have been daunting but he carried it off with great enjoyment and great appreciation from the St. Helens audience.

It is though the parts of Rita and Sue to whom much hangs upon and for many in the last few years, Dannielle Malone and Nikki Sanderson will be hard acts to follow. In Ann Marie Davies as Sue and the exceptional Emily Fleeshman as Rita, the tale of illicit sex and the world that many found themselves in 1980s Britain is framed with humour, realism and the spirit of youth.

Andrea Dunbar caused a sensation with the play when she penned it and that outrage can still be keenly felt today but thankfully Rita, Sue and Bob Too! remains a true depiction of the despair felt in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. It is perhaps a damning indictment of the times that such a powerful story, on a par for its search for social truth as works such as Cathy Come Home, A Taste of Honey and Kes, can still resonate across the passing of time.

A welcome return to the St. Helens Theatre Royal for one of best socially realistic plays of its time, Rita, Sue and Bob Too! It might be course, it is certainly hard hitting and once you step back from the humour it has that added ability found in plays such as Billy Liar, to think beyond the page but nonetheless it remains a play in which should have been just the start of a flourishing and successful career for Andrea Dunbar.

Ian D. Hall