Sob Story

Tue 7th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Emilia Andrews

at 21:04 on 9th Aug 2018

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When I walked in to the sound of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ and saw a group of six dolled-up girls with Yorkshire accents take to the stage, I was expecting a funny, light hearted performance. And in many ways, 'Sob Story' is. Despite the name, 'Sob Story' is not an entirely sad play – it’s also lively, witty and relatable. On the surface, it’s a story of six friends who have gone their separate ways since they left school and are reuniting as a girl band in a bid to win Yorkshire’s Got Talent. The prize? A whopping £150 voucher for Matalan. Who could resist?

Within this gang, there is: the bossy Sophie, played by Mhairi McCall; shot girls Jess and Olivia (who have gotten themselves banned from every club in Leeds), played by Sarah Dingwall and Niamh Kinane; nice girl Aimee played by Lana Pheutan; Rosie who’s just come back from university, played by Becky Niven; and finally, Claire Docherty was particularly brilliant in her role as Grace, the self-proclaimed ‘sesh gremlin’ with a romantic history with 38-year-old ‘Mad Gary’ from the petrol station. All of the girls are unique characters who bounce off of one another with their comedic, colloquial chat.

While the conversations between the girls are humorous, their singing voices are seriously good. They excel in their acapella versions of Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’ and Beyonce’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’; the girl power jams just keep coming (albeit a few seconds behind everyone else for out-of-time Aimee). But for Sophie whose eyes are on the prize, good singing isn’t enough to win. Sophie's realisation that they are ‘basic bitches without anything special’, leads the girls to the conclusion that they need a sob story to touch the hearts of their audience.

The opening lyric from ‘Umbrella’ – ‘good girl gone bad’ – rings particularly true at the plot twist of Sob Story. Without giving too much away, Lana Pheutan does an excellent job of transforming her character Aimee from a sweet farm girl with dungarees, a barn, and an alpaca named Benji living in Peru, into something entirely different. While the second half of the play is extreme and seems a little like an anti-bullying school drama assignment in parts, it does succeed in getting across an important message about the way young people, particularly cliquey girl groups, treat one another.

All in all, this play has a lot to offer: laughter, music, and a killer plot-twist. While it isn’t funny and light-hearted the whole way through, Sob Story is an enjoyable watch with a brilliant cast and a powerful message.

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Andrew Jameson

at 00:41 on 10th Aug 2018

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'Sob Story' is centered around six school friends who are rehearsing for their shot at 'Yorkshire's Got Talent'. They soon realise they're going to need something more – a sob story – to beat the competition. But events quickly take a darker turn, and the focus is redirected to the inner workings of the group rather than the talent show.

The play has a great sense of humour and there were plenty of laughs throughout (I particularly enjoyed the Peru story). The snappy dialogue kept the play moving along at a nice pace, as well as building dynamic relationships between the six characters. Each took on a slightly different role within the group, and there were some nice naturalistic moments when the group occasionally splintered off into smaller personal conversations. Some differences between the characters and what they had done after school were nicely – but not too heavily – developed.

These dynamics did not grow stale as a darker twist (at about the midway point) completely re-orientated the power structure and how the characters interacted with each other. The twist itself is a particularly well-executed moment, as both the characters and the audience go through a sharp transition from playful ridiculousness to realisation of a much more serious tone. That being said, the writers still found ways to work humour in amidst the darkness, which is all the more powerful for having been preceded by a lighter sense of fun.

Though billed as musical theatre, 'Sob Story' is not a typical musical. Instead it has a playful way of merging some well-known songs into the rehearsal setting, and also into conversations. Towards the latter parts of the play, the songs reappear with a rather different effect.

The songs are paired with movement: Aimee's lacklustre dancing in the first part is played for laughs while in the second half the movements are cleverly warped to reflect the changed atmosphere.

There are strong performances all round, with Lana Pheutan showing particular power and flexibility as Aimee. At the end a couple of character decisions and events seem a little out of place or rushed (compared with the already established naturalistic and realistic setting) but these are minor complaints in what is otherwise a strong piece of theatre.

'Sob Story' blends humour with a darkness, providing a fun look at the relationships between friends, but also at the darker workings behind these relationships.

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