77-85 Newington Causeway Inner London London SE1 6BD
020 7407 0234
Borough Tube/Elephant & Castle
Main house seats up to 240. Studio Space seats up to 120. There is also a dedicated space for rehearsals and education work. Southwark Playhouse will operate from this address while redevelopment work is undertaken on the London Bridge Station. When the work is completed Southwark Playhouse will be moving back to a space within the new development.
In a South London wrestling ring, Tanzi and her love interest, Dean Rebel, have more than just their titles to fight for when they're pitted against each other for the ?fight of the decade'. Following Tanzi's life from the moment she was born until she falls in love, discovers the realities of the wrestling world and invents her signature move, the deadly Venus Flytrap, Tanzi Libre is a touching and thrilling story, that takes place within a full-size professional wrestling ring complete with live DJ and an all-singing, all-wrestling cast. The title of the play changes depending on where it is performed. This production is called Tanzi Libre because it will incorporate the popular Mexican Lucha libre style of wrestling. Artistic Director Ellie Jones return to the theatre to direct an updated version of Claire Luckham's play Trafford Tanzi, re-titled Tanzi Libre. Running time: 90mins with an interval. The Large
First things first, it's great to see the Southwark Playhouse open again. Set halfway down Newington Causeway, their first programming choice is Clare Luckham's Tanzi Libre, a ‘play with songs’ about female empowerment.
It’s set in a wrestling ring, the audience placed in the round and encouraged to support whichever character they empathise with the most. Through ten rounds, we see Tanzi (Olivia Onyehara, versatile) grow up from birth to adulthood, go through marriage and decide on a career in the ring.
Unfortunately, the venue is far more impressive than this peculiar, dated play, which seems an odd choice to debut with. Originally performed in the West End as Trafford Tanzi back in the 1980s (with Toyah Wilcox in the lead role) it’s easy to see that perhaps it spoke more to audiences then.
But bringing it back exposes the terrible script, the one-sided characterisations, and the attempts at reverse psychology feminism through vicious, biting insults on Tanzi’s decision to make a life for herself. It just doesn’t work.
It’s a shame, too, that the singing isn’t better, with some almost amateur and often off-key warbling occurring in solos, although both Mark Rice-Oxley (Ref) and Patricia Gannon (Tanzi’s Mum) show their vocal ability with, respectively, renditions of ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’ and ‘Stand By Your Man’ (some great high notes from Gannon here). Perhaps this is what the director, or the writer wants. If so, why?
As expected, the best thing about this is the wrestling, which they’ve clearly worked hard on. It’s wonderfully balletic and powerful, some of the throws inducing genuine gasps of fear, the way the actors hold themselves afterwards cleverly causing concern for their wellbeing. Full credit must go to choreographers Greg Burridge and Garry Vanderhorne, as well as trainer Ben Bodecker, all of whom have done sterling work with the cast.
While the actors try hard – and seem to be having a great deal of fun – the weak direction and baffling and badly structured script (act conclusions are curiously anti-climactic) mean that the end comes as more of a relief than anything else. The idea has potential, but the script is just too rotten to make it a success.
Enter into the experience as one of a team of volunteers to work with families, youth or drug rehab and you find yourself caught up in the lives of families living in this cut off area of London. Once the characters are introduced through a short series of interviews that we are witness to we are plunged into the underworld as head off into the vaults and witness site specific scenes in which we are invited to comment and make suggestions.
A unique piece of well researched and written interactive theatre. - Dave J
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