Reviews round-up: Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse

A reviews round-up for Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse

The highly anticipated European premiere of Grey Gardens has now opened at Southwark Playhouse. Based on the 1975 iconic documentary by Albert and David Maysles, Grey Gardens is a hilarious and bittersweet musical about Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis’ eccentric family – Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale.
Directed by Thom Southerland, Grey Gardens has been a hit with the critics and predominately due to the ingenious castings of award-winning actresses Sheila Hancock and Jenna Russell. Russell’s performance is ‘superlative’ and anyone who saw her in Urine Town can easily imagine her enveloping such an eccentric role. Whilst mainly consigned to the second act Hancock’s performance is ‘superb’; a ‘touching and unsettling presence as Edie in arthritic old age. Aaron Sidwell, most recently in Green Day’s punk rock musical American Idiot artfully plays the dashing young suitor.

Critics were quick to point out the first act of Doug Wright’s book needs work, however the second act hits the mark with plenty of comedy gold moments.

Grey Gardens runs until 6 February 2016 at Southwark Playhouse.

Average rating score for this production


“A hauntingly textured musical makes its welcome London debut in a superbly acted production. This is a picture of an irrevocably damaged life, the thwarted flipside to the American Dream. Russell, dressed in ever-more outlandish outfits, sings Scott Frankel and Michael Korie's tenderly inflected melodies of regret with real heart. No less touching and utterly sincere and true is Sheila Hancock's beautiful, priceless portrait of eccentricity.”

“High Society meets What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in this look back at a socialite mother and daughter’s downfall. Scott Frankel’s music and Michael Korie’s lyrics, recalling Porter and Kern and Sousa and Sondheim, display wit, and Thom Southerland’s production is strongly performed. Jenna Russell demonstrates her star quality by playing the domineering mother in the first half and the life-deprived daughter in the second; she skilfully cuts through the artifice to invest the latter with a bruised ebullience. Sheila Hancock brings a distinctive note of silvery grace to the largely bedridden Edith in the second half.”

“Sheila Hancock is immensely poignant as the rebellious old Edith and Jenna Russell (who also plays Edith in the first half) is outstanding as Edie: heartbreakingly chipper as she shows off her makeshift wardrobe and showers herself in flea-powder.”

“Tom Southerland’s production works its magic slowly but is ultimately moving — and for Jenna Russell, at her very best when conveying the mannered awkwardness of the mature Edie, it’s a triumph.”

“Sheila Hancock is a touching and unsettling presence as Edie in arthritic old age.”

“Sheila Hancock is superb, but this musical about a reclusive American mother and daughter frustrates. The problem is that the first half needlessly flashbacks from 1973 to 1941. With the superlative Jenna Russell joining Hancock, and the pair conducting this bizarre double-act as though to the derelict manor born, there’s much that has the gleam of theatrical gold.”

“Grey Gardens shows women in search of a stage, performing – imaginatively and absurdly – through their clothes. Jackie K’s aunt and cousin are joyfully on song in a tale of Long Island squalor and co-dependency, while a fine new Pericles rules the waves."

Date: 12 January 2016
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