Superior Donuts

5
UK Premiere at the Southwark Playhouse
By Orlando - 16th Feb 2014

In every way this is a superior play and production. Southwark Playhouse should be applauded for housing such a marvelous play that, for some reason, has not been picked up and staged by ‘bigger producers’. One can only hope that a canny theatre owner or independent producer will see this show and move it immediately into the West End.

Superior Donuts reviewTracy Letts, hot on the heels of her outstanding play-then-film August Osage County, has written a play and created a world in which we care, we care deeply. Each character is beautifully drawn and perfectly created. Director, Ned Bennett’s casting is just perfect. From minor to major, each actor perfectly colour and contrast against each other in a totally believable story of love, passion, youth, age, comradeship and community.

Set in a dilapidated donut and coffee shop run by Arthur P, lives and worlds collide to produce a richly textured and emotionally taught platform in which to tell the tale of a pacifist – Arthur P - in life, politics and love who finds strength and activism through the energies and hopes of a young boy – Franco – who is debt ridden but full of life and future aspirations for his Magnum opus – a book detailing his American dream and his ticket out of poverty for him and his beloved mother. Couple this with loan-sharks, a love interest and the creaking groans of being a disappointment in the eyes of his father, Arthur P and Franco really do have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Arthur is played superbly by Mitchell Mullen. An absolute pressure cooker of repressed emotion and guilt, Mullen’s powerful and masterly performance is riveting, totally convincing and perfectly pitched. This is ably matched by the young Jonathan Livingstone who plays Franco Wicks with masterly comic timing and, seemingly, innocent charm. Livingstone then turns all this bon viveur on its head and steals your heart as he loses his beloved manuscript along with his fingers!

A lighter, but no lesser theme is beautifully woven through this tale in the form of Max Tarasov, a diminutive Russian immigrant who at fifty must prove himself through material wealth and a girlfriend-to-be-wife. A ball of energy, Nick Cavaliere burst into scenes with infectious energy and an abundance of charm. And then there is the love interest in the form of no nonsense cop Officer Randy Osteen played beguilingly, tenderly and with steel when required by Sarah Ball. Add to these super performances the talents of Amanda Walker (Lady Boyle), Alexander James Simon (Officer James Bailey), David Partridge (Luther Flynn) Tom Shepherd (Kevin MaGee) and the almost silent yet towering nephew of Max Tarasov, TJ Nelson (Kiril Ivakin) and we are presented with a first class cast in a first class production.

Ned Bennett’s stunning production is designed with breathtaking attention to detail by Fly Davis and lit with a sort of harmonic texture by Marec Joyce, all this is beautifully glued together with an affecting sound design by Giles Thomas and composer Theo Vidgen.

All in all – Superior Donuts is one of those plays that stay will stay with you for a very long time: For the brilliance of the writing, the detailed direction and design, and the flawless performances.

Orlando Weston


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