Theatre Review: Company, Gielgud Theatre

Gavin Spokes as Harry, Rosalie Craig as Bobbie and Mel Giedroyc as Sarah in Company, picture by Brin

Gavin Spokes as Harry, Rosalie Craig as Bobbie and Mel Giedroyc as Sarah in Company, picture by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg - Credit: Archant

Marianne Elliot’s updated, reworked gender switched take on Stephen Sondheim’s marriage musical is a revelation.

Rosalie Craig as Bobbie in Company picture by Brinkhoff Moegenburg

Rosalie Craig as Bobbie in Company picture by Brinkhoff Moegenburg - Credit: Archant

Marianne Elliott’s updated, reworked and gender-swapped take on Stephen Sondheim’s relationships musical is a revelation.

I realised I’d loved it’s slightly sepia 70s charm despite, rather than because of, its elusive self-regarding central character of male commitment-phobe Bobby.

But under Elliott’s touch, Company becomes a pin-sharp examination of modern relationships and the age-old paradox that while marriage is a safe space for us to weather life’s storms it also stifles and sometimes bores us.

As Bobbie, Rosalie Craig poignantly captures the confusion, fear and frustration of the career woman, surrounded by people, yet often lonely, continually pressured to get hitched as she turns 35.

The Company of the title is her menagerie of married friends who nag her, worry about her, and use her to avoid their own issues.

Towing a tumbler of bourbon and giant silver balloons Bobbie is continually fleeing from these birthday-cake bearing pals on a quest to understand the nature of love and relationships in a city that only emphasises her predicament.

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Like a New York Alice in Wonderland, with knowing looks to the audience she’s pursued by her biological clock and a crying baby making noises off - there’s even a vivid post coital nightmare vision of herself mired in domesticity and childrearing.

In Elliott’s reversal, Bobbie’s casual date is an air-headed air steward himbo, jetting off to Barcelona. David is a stay-at home dad, and Amy becomes Jittery Jamie, a palpitatingly anxious gay husband (Jonathan Bailey stealing the show with I’m Not Getting Married).

Peter and Susan get divorced to make themselves feel better about being together, and Harry and Sarah (a splendidly comic Mel Giedroyc) indulge in hilarious marital jujitsu and passive-aggressive banter before Harry movingly tells Bobbie why he’s ‘sorry-grateful’ to have got married.

Veteran musical star Patty Lupone also indulges in some scene thievery as thrice married, drawlingly cynical Joanne. She is in fine voice when toasting ‘The Ladies Who Lunch,’ but even Joanne has found a safe haven in the shape of loving Larry.

Bunny Chritie’s stylish set frames the drama in illuminated boxes that tightly squeeze together a roomful of overbearing friends or commuters in a subway carriage One pops up as a garish marriage chapel and Bobbie it’s a good metaphor to see Bobbie continually opening doorshoping to find answers in the next room. With her fine clear voice, Craig’s Bobbie is a likeable everywoman, faced with a universal dilemma; the terrible choice between intimacy and freedom.

Of course the problem is most humans want both. But as she sings of ‘someone to give me support for being alive’ and ‘alone is alone’ both she and Sondheim conclude that relationships are a sacrifice, but you’re better off in than out.