Thursday, June 20

Ride – Southwark Playhouse Elephant

Ride is a British musical that Returns to London after a period at the Charing Cross Theatre last year. This show is back and even better than before. Presented as a pitch for her very own newspaper column we see Annie Londonderry commandeer office assistant Martha and together the two of them narrate Annie’s journey in 1894 to be the first woman to circumnavigate the globe via bicycle.

The performers speak directly to the audience as though we are the panel they are pitching to. Which is great for this story especially given the double act cast and small intimate set. The transition between relaying the story to the board vs Annie disappearing into her reality was profound and the shift was palpable via the energy in the audience.

All the book, music and lyrics are by Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams. The clear highlight is the score. The book is studded with witty one liners, but the comedy does not land with the audience at times. However, the heartfelt moments show the different trials tribulations and unexpected experiences of joy on her journey. Unfortunately, the book at times feels more like something to transition from song to song at times with the undercurrent of a story being told by a clearly unreliable narrator.  Annie sells herself and her story.

Photo: Danny Kaan

The addition of the sleight of hand tricks by director Sarah Meadows was a fun way to enhance the theme of story and spectacle over reality and truth. The level of energy never flags throughout the show and the audience never knows what to expect.

Both performances were fantastic. The chemistry between the Liv Andrusier and Katy Ellis was palpable. Both the budding friendship or colleague relationship between Annie and Martha and the romantic relationship between Fred and Annie. Katy Ellis disappears into her roles as both bumbling and clumsy Martha and quirky yet charming Fred.

Liv Andrusier’s Annie Londonderry was sharp and brash in the best way. Her voice shines through with most of the score being written for Annie. Her clear high belt was beautiful to hear, and her Bostonian accent work was great. Andrusier commands all the attention however, until the latter parts of the show you barely find out anything personal about Annie.

The transition between relaying the story to the board vs Annie disappearing into her reality was profound and the shift was palpable via the energy in the audience. There was silence as we revelled in her story, a commentary on what it was and is like to be a woman trying to accomplish in society. With the heartbreaking reveal and exploration of Annie’s life as a Latvian Jewish immigrant in Boston. At times questioning the audience about their biases and perspectives, would we want to hear the story of a Jewish woman who was the first to ride around the world?

This show has already built on its potential and Ride is a plucky yet emotional story that all would benefit from hearing.

Ride is playing at the Southwark Playhouse elephant until 12th August, tickets are available here: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/productions/ride/

Reviewer: Zara Odetunde

Reviewed: 25th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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