Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Theatre Review. Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: James Atherton, Taj Atwal, Sally Bankes, Gemma Dobson, Samantha Robinson, David Walker.

Jealousy can tear friendships apart, it is a aspect of life that is seen through every social class, every feature of society in all its rich forms and its often desperate situation, jealousy rips at the very seams of the fabric that binds and nobody outside of Shakespeare arguably understood that more when writing about two young girls from Bradford and the power of sex than Andrea Dunbar.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too is one of the great plays of the late 20th Century for many reasons, least of all because of the sense of overwhelming truth that comes through every single line, the heated exchange between former friends and the fall out on the street in which the neighbours are greeted to a tragedy of epic proportions. In the modern age, it is easy to insist that the two girls are victims of manipulation, of exploitation and the tawdry illegal act of underage sex; but Ms. Dunbar’s reasoning went beyond that, she saw from first-hand experience just how broken Britain was and how the state was going to turn upside down in the coming decade.

To capture the disgrace, the playful and the tragic of the situation that befell many a teenager to whom there was nothing better to do in life than think about sex in small, closed minded communities, takes sincerity, a love not only for one of only three plays written by the playwright before her own heart-breaking end, but for the writer herself and for Northern theatre in general. Without that sincerity, by demonising the very wealth of the piece, one should surely scuttle back to the safe and the protected realms of the dull and harmless.

It is a sincerity that is framed wonderfully by the cast from Out of Joint as they show that a production that is almost 40 years old is still timeless, sadly relevant to today’s society, teenagers are becoming forgotten again, they are being left to their own thoughts and the world is not listening to them, not wishing to hear their point of view and that in itself is a crime.

With superb performances by Taj Atwal and Gemma Dobson, who is making her professional debut in this production, Rita, Sue and Bob Too is a glorious affair that understands it has too sit in the dirt to appreciate the stars that fall to Earth. A wild, passionate piece of theatre, shocking, full of mischief and trouble; theatre that shows it has a heart.

Ian D. Hall