THE RINK | London, Southwark Playhouse

The Southwark Playhouse is a surprisingly intimate venue for a musical of The Rink’s calibre — this is a show which it’s easy to imagine on the West End stage. And yet the immediacy of the space perfectly complements a musical which, along with the razmatazz of its grand numbers and fabulous ensemble dance routines, has serious emotional depth.

Set in the 1970s, The Rink explores the fractured relationship between damaged daughter Angel (Gemma Sutton) and uproariously acerbic matriarch Anna (Caroline O’Connor), as they argue about selling the family roller rink. As nostalgia, resentment and begrudging affection collide, the stage is set for a series of revealing and deeply moving flashbacks.

Meanwhile the male chorus, introduced to the audience as a present-day demolition crew, play everyone from Anna’s feckless husband Dino (Stewart Clarke) to gossiping middle-aged women, teenage lotharios and even a nun.

The hardworking cast manage everything from a breathtaking tango to a number danced entirely in roller-skates, switching effortlessly between characters with just the addition of a jacket or a prop, and playing a vast range of ages with absolute conviction. The vocals are stunning, jazzy in that Broadway way, and set to gorgeous music exploiting the sometimes-mournful, sometimes-joyous boardwalk organ.

This is the first major London production of Kander and Ebb’s Tony Award winning musical in thirty years, so get your skates on.

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