Taking on the 1987 film version would seem impossible, yet Out of Joint tackled the story with both comedy and poignancy in a successful way.
Rita, Sue and Bob Too tells the story of two teenage girls (Rita and Sue) living in Bradford in the 1980’s who babysit for a married couple (Bob and Michelle) in their twenties. Every evening when Bob goes to take the two girls home, he has sex with them both, despite the, being underage.
The three central characters all seem to have problems with their home lives, whilst we don’t meet Rita’s parents, it’s clear her life at home is rocky. Sue’s parents are argumentative and her dad constantly drunk. Bob meanwhile is unhappy with his sex life with his wife which seems pretty non-existent.
The first scene threw us into a comical sex scene in a brilliant slapstick way receiving non-stop laughter from the audience. Alyce Liburd and Gemma Dobson, who played Rita and Sue respectively were fantastic in expressing their worries then enjoyment through the whole act whilst also commentating whilst the other was with Bob.
Despite, at the end of the day, Bob grooming the girls, John Askew made him extremely likeable, being able to groom the audience to like him too despite his infidelity to Michelle and abuse of Rita and Sue. Furthermore, the three central characters together created a real buzz and each scene involving the three contained just as much energy as the last.
Though minimal, the staging was believable with balconies and alleyways either side of the theatre implying the block of flats that the characters live in. A few added props were all it took to create the scenes of Sue’s home and Bob and Michelle’s too. Additionally, a beautiful backdrop of a Yorkshire landscape was central to the story as it immediately transported us each time to the place that Bob groomed Rita and Sue.
Applause also has to be given to Susan Mitchell, David Walker and Samantha Robinson- playing Mum, Dad and Michelle who each brought a new energy to the cast. Being a cast of only six, it would have been easy for the play to feel stale by the end but instead it felt just as fresh as the beginning.
Overall, the play was beautiful, and represented just one angle of Northern working class England in the 1980’s. However, the levels of swearing and themes would prevent the recommendation to anybody under 16.
Rita, Sue and Bob Too runs at The Lowry until April 13th. My interview with cast member Susan Mitchell can be read here.