Tag Archives: Georgie Rankcom

“Help! We Are Still Alive” at the Seven Dials Playhouse

What a sweet little show Tim Gilvin and Imogen Palmer have made. Imagining a couple after the apocalypse, making a life together that’s a bit like lockdown (but in this case without the baking), this play with songs is entertaining, endearing and obsessed with comfort food.

Palmer’s book takes the cliché about falling in love with the last person on earth and adds extra flavour – think Worcester sauce on your cheese on toast. Because Jass and Finn were a couple in the ‘old world’… yet she has a secret. Even after world catastrophe, true love doesn’t run smooth.

The action relies too much on audio diaries for exposition, going back and forth in time. Director Georgie Rankcom tries hard to keep the action moving and uses the sparse stage well. Gilvin’s music and lyrics are catchy and satisfyingly neat but leave you wanting more.

If this reaction seems lukewarm, like a pizza slice from Gregg’s after five o’clock, then why am I so keen on the show? And I really am. The answer is its humour, its characters and its performers.

Jass and Finn are adorable. For want of a better description, they are as cute as chocolate buttons. Their affection for each other is believable, as are their problems, sensitively examined in the light of their self-proclaimed Queer status. Deep-rooted anxieties and misgivings are intelligently explicated and – surprise – they have little to do with the end of the world.

The glacé cherry on top of the Mr Kipling cake is the show’s humour. This is what makes Help! We’re Still Alive memorable. With songs about canned pineapples and supermarkets, the mix of quirks and down-to-earth concerns is just… lovely. The jokes provide that je ne sais quoi, as Jass might say, that great shows require.

Elijah Ferreira and Jade Johnson play Finn and Jass. The casting and the chemistry are perfect – they are both superb comedians who aid the script enormously. Angst is acknowledged, but Ferreira and Johnson make you care and try to reassure.

The affection and respect the characters share give us a sense that things will be all right in the end. After all, even if your Ginster’s pasty is cold, it is still delicious.

The affection and respect the characters share give us a sense that things will be all right in the end. After all, even if your Ginster’s pasty is cold, it is still delicious. The affection and respect the characters share give us a sense that things will be all right in the end. After all, even if your Ginster’s pasty is cold, it is still delicious.

Until 15 October 2022


Photo by Danny Kaan

“Anyone Can Whistle” at the Southwark Playhouse

Not even Stephen Sondheim got it right every time. This 1964 musical has the feel of being penned by a tyro, albeit one who is a genius. While responding to a spirit of counter-culture this revival, directed by Georgie Rankcom, adds confusion.

It’s sacrilegious to criticise Sondheim (and rightly so). Thankfully many faults can be allocated to Arthur Laurents’ book. After all, there are lots of good songs here you will probably recognise.

Anyone Can Whistle has a “rundown town” that manufactures a religious miracle for financial gain. But surprisingly little is done with this idea. At the same time, inmates from a mental asylum called, ahem, the Cookie Jar, run amuck. Surprise! It’s hard to tell who is really insane. There’s an odd lack of satire as the show aims to be a parable and ends up simplistic and tiresome.

The production doesn’t iron out the show’s problems (which would be tough). Attempts at audience participation are ham-fisted and the humour poorly delivered (too many jokes are rushed). There’s no sense of place or time and, with accents all over the place, it seems safe to say that’s deliberate. But the piece is stuck in its period, preoccupied with adolescent rebellion, vague protest and forms of therapy.

Rankcom does a good job working with the traverse stage and Lisa Stevens’ choreography is admirably energetic. But the performances are too broad and there are problems with hearing lines clearly enough. What fun Sondheim’s lyrics possess is often lost.

Alex Young, as the town’s mayor, is a notable exception to all the production’s problems. Like her character, Young is a woman who can handle a crowd, and she adds laughs as well as silliness, which helps in a piece that takes itself surprisingly seriously.

Chrystine Symone

Other performances need more nuance – how much this could be injected despite the script is open to debate. Our hero and heroine, J Bowden Hapgood and Nurse Fay Apple, performed with determination by Jordan Broatch and Chrystine Symone, are flat and their romance unconvincing. Is the somewhat flippant view of mental illness that comes with the show’s simplicity the problem? Even if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it has repercussions for their love affair that Broatch and Symone’s undoubtable charm cannot save. This too-brief encounter comes across as odd. We only learn catchphrases for characters.

The societal critiques in Anyone Can Whistle and the topic of mental health have an appeal. Rankcom and his cast respond with genuine enthusiasm to challenging the mainstream. It’s nice so see this inspiration. But, as the work itself is immature, the production becomes tarnished with the same quality. Enthusing an audience about such a hotchpotch of ideas, while not exactly needing a miracle, turns out to be a leap of faith too far.

Until 7 May 2022


Photos by Danny With A Camera