Review of Confidence at the Southwark Playhouse, Starring Tanya Burr as Ella (Play by Judy Upton)

Southwark Playhouse:

Prior to seeing the play, I read as many reviews as I could. Not to beat about the bush, the tabloids have not reviewed Confidence favourably. The average rating seems to be about 2 out of 5 stars. My girlfriend and I went to Saturday 26th May’s 8pm showing and we were prepared for the worst. Here’s my summary.

Negative points: The most disappointing part of the play has nothing to do with the actors or the play itself; the Southwark Playhouse was the hottest room I have ever been in, in my 32 years of existence. Audience members fanned themselves with anything they could conceivably move in a flapping motion. The girl sat to my left even resorted to audibly breaking wind; at least I think that’s why she did it.

Confidence was advertised as a kind of nostalgic trip to 1990s, set on a British seaside pier. Unfortunately, one cardboard cutout of Liam Gallagher and some tracksuit bottoms doesn’t quite cut it. Not to sound too critical, but the kiosk pricing boards listed a slice of quiche at £4! In the 1990s, you could buy a house for that! And, while the pier kiosks were detailed, the set on the whole didn’t do much to evoke thoughts of the seaside.

The play itself; the story is not great. The play feels rushed, you never really connect with the characters. Some of the stage direction was really jarring. Some 12 year old girls and their mum walked out after the interval, probably because of the frequent swearing and adult themes present throughout.

Positive points: There is some great acting. Particularly, Rhys Yates, the actor who plays Ben. He’s believable and his acting is flawless. The staff at the Southwark Playhouse were very friendly. As I’ve already stated, I didn’t think the play was amazing, however there are some twists that do make it worth a watch. And the whole reason for us going was to see Tanya, and we saw her, which leads me on to her performance in this play.

People have been quite frankly cruel about Tanya’s acting in this play. Saying that she can’t act, saying that her dialogue is both monotonous and too melodic; which seems a tad contradictory to me. Unfortunately, Tanya is attracting this attention because she has, despite what anyone says, landed this lead role solely because of her YouTube fame. She has carefully avoided acknowledging this fact, instead focusing on a romanticised history of her acting career. In my mind, this was a mistake, encouraging critics to criticise rather than empathise with her latest venture.

That said, I found myself a little surprised that, in my non-professional opinion, Tanya is not a bad actor. She had a confident strut that almost had me believing she was the master manipulator who she was supposed to be playing. However, she did not fully convince me. She did not exhibit any level of sexual prowess that would lead you to believe that she had the male characters wrapped around her finger. She also is quite clearly not 18, as Ella is supposed to be. On occasion, she started her dialogue too soon, before repeating it at the correct time, and one of those occasions she appeared to be quite angry with herself for doing so.

Let’s not forget that Tanya is not an experienced actor. She would fit in well in University production and with more experience she may well graduate to proper acting roles. While I recognise some elements of the critical reviews, specifically the unfairness of jumping the professional queue to land a lead role, I did sympathise with Tanya. She has been taking acting lessons and you could not accuse her of not taking this role seriously. She is trying hard to do a good job, she did a good job, and she should keep going…


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