entertainment

Review | Gender-bending 'Company' is a smash-hit on the West End

Find out what Matthew Hyde thought of the West End revival of the Sondheim classic

2018-10-19

For the first time in Company’s 40-year history, the central role of Bobbie is played by a woman in this ground breaking production.

Gender bending doesn’t always work and can sometimes feel like a marketing ploy or gimmick. Not only does it work here, it completely transforms this ‘grown up’ Sondheim musical, shedding a new light on every relationship and character.

It is current, topical and very much of today. In short, it’s a spectacular triumph.

Bobbie is turning 35 and single amidst her married and settled New York friends. She brightly moves from couple to couple observing their quirks while remaining enviably free, single and seemingly happy.

However, with Marianne Elliott’s brilliant direction what’s made clear is the immense societal pressure on women to marry, to have children and to conform.

With a firm nod to ‘Alice In Wonderland’ Bobbie moves from scene to scene in an almost dreamlike trance as she is subjected to more and more crazy behaviour from her so called happy friends.

Her desperate desire to feel and connect with anyone in a modern day urban jungle is palpable and all too relatable for many.

Rosalie Craig as Bobbie is incredible, displaying touching optimism and aching vulnerability.

She understands and inhabits the forever changing emotion within the songs, whether it be the sensitive and thoughtful ‘Marry Me A Little’ or the defiant and self revelation of ‘Being Alive’.

Through Elliott’s direction we feel we are literally inside her thoughts and dreams and it’s both captivating and haunting.

The rest of the cast are simply perfect. In more gender swapping fabulousness the role of Amy is now Jamie played by Jonathan Bailey.

Bailey’s total meltdown on the morning of his marriage to Paul with ‘Getting Married Today’ is a highlight and threatens to stop the show.

Patti LuPone as Joanne gives a howling cry of rage with ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’ which you feel privileged to have witnessed.

Harry (Gavin Spokes), David (Richard Henders) and Larry (Ben Lewis) give a heartfelt and chilling ‘Sorry-Grateful’ which will land with most couples.

Andy (Richard Fleeshman), Theo (Matthew Seadon-Young) and PJ (George Blagden) represent Bobbie’s turbulent dating life and once again give the most incredible version of ‘You Could Drive A Person Crazy’.

This is a complete reimagining of a classic making us view it in an entirely different and modern way. The season has just been extended so do whatever you need to do to catch it. The West End lights will certainly shine brighter with this show in town.

Rating – 5*

Company plays at the Gielgud Theatre until 30th March.

Words by Matthew Hyde