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The Busy Body review at Southwark Playhouse London

Joanna Lumley once told an interviewer that the best actors take “bloody good care to breathe into every corner they find in their character”. She has a point. It’s as if director Jessica Swale has spent every waking minute of the last few weeks drumming this into her cast. Whatever she’s been doing, they’ve been paying attention, because this is an ensemble that knows how to inject detail and joy into character acting.

“This is some blundering adventure” screams Charles, a put-upon young suitor, as we bound through Susanna Centlivre’s celebrated Restoration piece. He has a point. It’s a famous story of mistaken identities, marriage and money, only now the coquettish, ingenious comedy has been honed into an intimate lesson in making an audience laugh – sarcastic, touching, hilarious, saggy in places but no harm done, and more than that, it’s just really fun.

And because the spoils should be shared, it would be unfair to single anyone in particular out. However, a special nod has to go the musical minstrels who, as each scene melts into the next, manage to whip everyone up with marvellous original songs, written by Swale, which are funny and frivolous, silly and superb. If ever there was evidence that drama schools are still on the money, then the lion’s share of this young cast is it.

Production Information

Southwark Playhouse, London, September 12-October 6

Susanna Centlivre
Jessica Swale
Red Handed Theatre Company, Chantelle Staynings, Southwark Playhouse
Gus Brown, Ruth Clarke-Irons, Cerith Flinn, Alexandra Guelff, Michael Lindall, Kate Marlais, Frances Marshall, Henry Shields, Ella Smith, Gay Soper, Matthew Spencer
Running time
2hrs 30mins