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Confidence review at Southwark Playhouse – ‘Tanya Burr stars in a bawdy 1990s comedy’

Tanya Burr in Confidence at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Helen Murray

Judy Upton’s 1998 play Confidence is set on the seaside. Not the seaside of nostalgic dreams (raspberry ripple ice cream and donkey rides) but the real English seaside: a land of slot machines, tacky souvenirs and rubbish discos.

Ella (Tanya Burr) is the typical teenager with ambitions too big for the town she lives in, the boys she shags and the limited employment available. But she’s more entrepreneurial than most. Instead of enrolling at college she comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme featuring blow-up dolphins and gullible tourists.

As the gobby, pouty and always-horny Ella, Burr, a YouTube sensation making her stage debut, does indeed display confidence. But her clipped vowels and debutant articulation seem better suited to St Trinian’s than this dilapidated coastal town. Alongside her Lace Akpojaro gives a very watchable performance as shifty businessman Edwin, full of tiny jittery movements.

Upton’s play is stuffed with the kind of dirty humour you’d get on a hen night in Weston-super-Mare or any other rundown resort. Cadbury’s Flakes get stuck places Mr Whippy never intended and there’s an oral sex gag that makes inventive use of a frozen hamster.

But Rob Drummer’s production and the cast never quite make this Carry On-style humour land. It ends up feeling a bit embarrassing, like coming across a topless postcard when out shopping with your granddad.

That it remains good fun is largely down to Amelia Jane Hankin’s 1990s-tastic set design. It revels in retro beachside tat and feels as fresh and fake as a lick of a mint Cornetto.


Mark Shenton: Is stunt casting like Tanya Burr really the way of the future?

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Wonderfully designed revival of the 1990s play that stumbles over its bawdy jokes