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GREY GARDENS at Southwark Playhouse

February 8, 2016

Have you ever heard of “Grey Gardens” or Edith Bouvier Beale? I just saw the European premier of the musical GREY GARDENS in a four week sold out run at the Southwark Playhouse. Possibly one of the most interesting relationships I have seen explored in a musical. This remarkable “true” story reveals layers and layers of detail into the complex dependency between a mother and her daughter.

The design is tremendous and through the set, costume and lighting even more layers are visualised as wrapping giving one the experience of continually peeling open the story revealing more and more insight through detail. Clever staging gives us access into their troubled minds with the past and present merging into a technicolor dream-scape. An excellent band plays and excellent score by Scott Frankel that is woven perfectly into the story, and as only a musical can it heightens the drama and the emotion yet always delicately, making this more of a play than a “show”.

Sheila Hancock gives a remarkably delicate tender performance as the ageing mother Edith which draws us deeply into the heart of the play. Jenna Russell as the young Edith in Act one and as the adult daughter “Little Edie” in Act two is mesmerising. Her performances are award winning characterisations. Rachel Anne Rayham is perfect as young “little Edie” and Aaron Sidwell plays “Joseph Patrick Kennedy” with a suave sophistication and conjurs up a completely opposite character with “Jerry”. It was hard to believe he was playing both parts. Aka Mitchell brings certainty and reliability as “Brooks Snr/Jnr” and Billy Boyle is perfectly cast as “Major Bouvier”.

Grey Gardens(1)

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