I first visited the Southwark Playhouse last year to watch their production of Jason Robert Brown’s Parade. One thing I remember from that visit is thinking what an unusual yet interesting performing space this venue is. And I admit I was doubtful there were a lot of shows that would fit into this theatre due to it being a rather dark and gloomy place.
However, it is exactly the nature of this unusual theatre that makes Floyd Collins even more gripping and “enjoyable” (that doesn’t seem to be the right word for such a dark piece I admit).
Ladders are used to create the tunnels and caves – a simple yet effective way to take the audience along to the world below. The dark and cold vaults of the Southwark Playhouse are the most perfect space for this show and really add to the atmosphere.
The show itself is definitely not an easy piece of theatre. It’s the story of caver Floyd Collins who is trapped deep below ground and who’s personal tragedy is turned into a nationwide sensation by the media.
I found the score a bit hard to get into yet interesting and beautiful in its own way. Sadly the lyrics were a bit drowned out by the music from time to time.
This was the third show I have seen Glenn Carter in (the former being Jersey Boys and The Exonerated) and I really enjoyed his performance. His singing was impressive and I did feel for his Floyd. He gets extra points for having to lay on the cold floor of the vaults for the majority of the show – that must be one of the most uncomfortable parts he’s ever played.
However, the real stand out in this show is without a doubt Ryan Sampson’s Skeets Miller. I have rarely seen such an honest and heartfelt performance. Ryan Sampson is definitely someone I will look out for in the future.
The rest of the cast all did well but there was no real highlight I have to say (I might just have been too mesmerised by Ryan Sampson’s performance to notice though). I couldn’t really connect to Robyn North’s Nellie and sadly I found Gareth Chart’s Homer a bit bland compared to Glenn Carter’s and especially Ryan Sampson’ performance.
So, this show is by no means perfect but (and that’s a big but) it is definitely one not to miss. Why, you ask? Because it’s unusual, it’s something you might not get the chance to see on stage again for a long time and because the cast have obviously working hard to bring this story to life.
One very important advice though: Wear layers when you go and see the show. I attended Floyd Collins on a rather nice spring day and I was freezing by the end of the performance – it’s cold in the vaults!
Floyd Collins is running at the Southwark Playhouse until March 31st. For more info and to book tickets go to http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-vault/floyd-collins/