The A-Z of Mrs P at Southwark Playhouse
It’s hard to know what to expect when it comes to a play about the invention of the A-Z! Probably not one of the most riveting subjects one could think of but when you really set your mind to thinking about it, it is actually rather astonishing. Who could have possibly listed every road, street, lane and square in London?
Writer Diane Samuels and musician Gwyneth Herbert team up to produce this brilliant musical fable about the life of A-Z founder Phyllis Pearsall. With the help of the superb Isy Suttie from Peep Show fame, who puts on a near perfect performance in the lead as Mrs P, and Tony Award-winning Frances Ruffelle – whose experience puts her in a league of her own – this play is a delight from start to finish. Their co-stars, including Michael Matus and Stuart Matthew Price, provide fabulous and unfaltering support. The onstage chemistry between the actors is simply engaging and their outstanding vocals work together almost effortlessly. Suttie is wonderful throughout playing this strong yet vulnerable woman.
Set in 1936, the costumes and language are spot on and the stage set-up works a treat. A symbol of the lead character’s strength and resistance can be shown as she wears trousers for the duration, a statement not unfamiliar when it come to the work of Samuels, as she often writes strong lead female characters. The A-Z of Mrs P tells the tale of Pearsall as she returns to London after leaving her husband and fleeing Venice. Getting used to London again she finds herself lost. A telegram from her father in New York who has recently mapped every borough in the Big Apple brings forward the idea of listing all 23,000 streets in London. Their trials and tribulations in producing the A-Z throw up some humorous, yet many dark, dramatic and tragic challenges. Ruffelle beautifully portrays Mrs P’s alcoholic and beaten mother, whose time comes to a heartbreaking end, brought on by her past relationship with her domineering and brutal husband, Pearsall’s father. Pearsall’s fate leads her to being victim of a plane crash, leaving her injured after the success of the A-Z.
The show’s hit song Lovely London Town will be stuck in your head as you sing it all the way home. But that is certainly not the only thing that will be stuck – the play as a whole will leave you feeling humbled and fulfilled.
The A-Z of Mrs P is at the Southwark Playhouse until 29th March 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.