dfp_header_hidden_string

Teddy

Joseph Prowen in a scene from Teddy at the Southwark Playhouse Joseph Prowen in a scene from Teddy at the Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Darren Bell

Teddy may turn the clock back some 60 or so years to a postwar Elephant and Castle, but the show being played out at Southwark Playhouse – right in the middle of that fast-regenerating London district – is a game changer that pushes the integrated musical play forwards.

We’ve recently seen how Once, imported from Broadway, brought the original music of a fictitious Dublin street busker to the stage, but those songs emerged specifically out of the action and emotions of the story. Teddy seeks to do something different: its original songs, performed live by a stunning and characterful onstage band, are background atmospheric accompaniment to the story it separately tells of a night on the town by two young people Teddy (Joseph Prowen) and Josie (Jennifer Kirby).

Tristan Bernays’ script frequently flirts with heightened poetic imagery in a narrative style that sometimes reminded me of Berkoff. But Eleanor Rhode’s production, which provides a meticulous recreation of the spirit of a place and a time, is thrillingly grounded by the giddy, intoxicating delivery of its songs.

That gives a familiar story immediacy and impact. It’s also great to see Southwark Playhouse, which has become a major home for bringing Broadway shows like Titanic, In the Heights and Carrie to London now providing space for a creatively inspired and inspiring English contribution.

Verdict
Punchy, exhilarating musical ride down memory lane brings fresh vitality to a familiar story
Mark Shenton
Mark is associate editor of The Stage, as well as New York critic. He has written regularly for The Stage since 2005. His columns appear online every Wednesday and Friday.
^