Rita, Sue and Bob Too, The Goose Nest, Warwick Arts Centre, to October 21.
Having missed the film and the stage play when they were first released in the 80s, I was very much looking forward to seeing this newly-edited version of Rita, Sue and Bob, and it did not disappoint.
Set on a rough council estate, similar to the one in Bradford that writer Andrea Dunbar grew up on, the play is a gritty and penetrating insight into the lives of two working class teenage girls struggling to find their way in the early years of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Over 30 years later, there are interesting parallels between Britain then and now.
The first scene, in which Bob (James Atherton) takes turns having sex with the two girls in his car, is both shocking and comical. What was considered offensive in the 1980s, now in the wake of recent grooming scandals, arguably feels more so, but to criticise the play because of recent events would be to miss its point.
What we are being offered is a view of the world through a teenager’s uncomplicated, honest gaze. Dunbar has a distinctive and unique voice and it feels as relevant and important today as it was when the play was first performed.
The lead characters were convincingly portrayed with Taj Atwal as Rita and Gemma Dobson as Sue giving enthusiastic and captivating performances. James Atherton as Bob is both sleazy and compelling as he fluctuates between being a lover and a loser.
Solid support is provided by Sally Barnes and David Walker as Rita’s mum and dad and Samantha Robinson as Bob’s estranged wife.
The play combines a hefty dose of social realism with a generous sprinkling of razor-sharp wit and touching comedy, and is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking production.
Pictured: Bob (James Atherton) with Sue (Gemma Dobson) and Rita (Taj Atwal).