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  • Xi Ye

Review: Ride - A New Musical

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

Southwark Playhouse Elephant

Playing until 12th August 2023

Writers: Freya Catrin Smith, Jack Williams

Director: Sarah Meadows

Musical Director: Sam Young

Producers: Ramin Sabi, Emily Lunnon (DEM)

See my Interview with Liv Andrusier, who plays Annie Londonderry here.

Review {AD-PR Invite}

First published on Everything Theatre

Ride tells the triumphant tale of Annie Londonderry (Liv Andrusier) following the completion of her cycling journey around the world. Annie presents herself and her story to the New York World newspaper in an attempt to be signed as a columnist. She enlists the help of an unsuspecting secretary working at the news company, Martha (Katy Ellis), who takes on the roles of multiple characters in Annie’s adventure.

Since the last run of this production just a couple of years ago, writers Freya Catrin and Jack Williams and Director Sarah Meadows have further improved the narrative and direction, forming an even more coherent and attractive story. This is particularly evident in two scenes. Firstly, in Annie’s interaction with Celine, a French customs officer who confiscates her bike. After convincing Celine to break out of the social confines she has created for herself, the two become temporary companions on a journey across France. This iteration of the production has shed off any ambiguity in Annie’s romantic attraction toward Celine, which is far more heated and passionate, making Celine’s eventual departure even more devastating. Secondly, in the final scene where Annie has lost the hope to become a columnist, a short and effective dialogue has been added to allow Martha to re-ignite Annie’s hope before the two wrap up the show with the final number, ‘Ride the Moment’. Sam Young returns as the Musical Director, and has without a doubt worked his magic with the cast to bring the flawless scores to life once again.

Andrusier reprises her role as Annie Londonderry, bringing more ferocity and newfound confidence to her already award-winning performance. She simultaneously brings roof-shattering vocals and a larger-than-life performance to this character, showcasing confidence, hesitation and grief as needed, commanding the attention and energy of the auditorium at all times. Ellis joins this run of the show, bringing her own take on Martha, and the many characters Martha then plays. Deviating from the last iteration of the role, Ellis’s version is more comedic and less timid from the very start, and perhaps because of this, Martha’s growth and transition into a more confident character is less apparent. However, Ellis brings spades of chemistry to the characters that Annie falls in love with: Celine and then Fred Rose. These versions of Celine and Fred abandon all subtlety, complementing Annie’s flood of passion and desperation for any semblance of companionship to let her escape from reality.

Many elements of the production have been fine-tuned, such as adding in clock ticking sound effects when the “gentleman” of the New York World is impatiently waiting for the next part of the presentation, thus subtly giving the audience context to the situation. The choreography and magic tricks are also more elaborate and animated, complementing Andrusier’s dramatic performance. In the last run, the back space of the stage that opens up was underutilised, which I felt limited the scale of the journey and failed to showcase a sense of freedom. In this version, the creative team make remarkable use of projections into that back space, showing the audience shifting landscapes including mountains, the desert and the boundless starry sky, all of which demonstrate the limitless opportunities presented to Annie.

Ride is going from strength to strength, capitalising on existing successes and somehow making their last near perfect run even better. The two-woman show is well suited to the intimacy offered by smaller venues like the Charing Cross Theatre and Southwark Playhouse, allowing the audience to fully grasp the characters’ bravery, loneliness, escape, love and desire for change up close.

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