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Judy Upton's new play, premiered at the Rep's refurbished and renamed studio, The Door, keeps you amused, engaged and guessing to the end. Saucy in the style of the traditional seaside postcards, it follows the attempts of a trio of small-time grafters to make it rich out of various scams at a down-at-heel seaside resort.
Brains behind the operation is young Ella, who quickly gets the measure of the naive teenage Dean, and his elder brother Ben 'the kick-ass man' for Mr Bayliss, owner of the kiosks and entertainment venues along the prom and the pier. When Bayliss arrives back from prison, after paying his debt to society for tax dodges, a power struggle ensues between the sassy newcomer Ella, and the wily, seasoned con-man. It is the old battle of the sexes in a refreshingly new guise, with sex appeal proving both Ella's weapon and her Achilles heel.
Under Anthony Clark's direction, the cast keeps the tug-of war intriguingly pulsing back and forth, though it would be unfair to reveal how the balance of power is finally resolved.
Making her professional debut as Ella is Jody Watson, whose arrival on stage makes as big a splash as Ella's impact on the prom. She captures Ella's mix of insouciance, shrewdness and vulnerability to perfection, and in every movement and pose of her body exudes the sort of sexiness that keeps you watching her.
She is well-matched by Michael Mears as Edwin Bayliss, with a thick Steptoe accent and hangdog expression, but Mears also subtly suggests the mean, ruthless streak that lies beneath this top-dressing. There is excellent support from Robin Pirongs as would-be hard man Ben, and Zoot Lynam as his hapless teenage brother Dean, while Alison Lintott turns in a delightful comic cameo of the sentimental, none-too-bright waitress Ruby.
Designer Patrick Connellan and lighting designer Tim Mitchell convey all the garish tawdriness of the British seaside resort somewhere just south of London - that has seen better days, while Upton convincingly reminds us that the traditional play still has a lot of mileage left in it.
Ann FitzGerald - The Stage 1/10/1998.
The new regime at The Door opened with Confidence, a delightfully rude and funny play by one of the Royal Court's new-wave writers, Judy Upton.
There's space only for a brief commendation of Judy Upton's wry, sharply observed comedy about scheming, scamming low-life in a South Coast resort. It has an enjoyable plot, as well as a fabulously funny gag involving a deep-frozen pet hamster and a cheekily topical reference to cigar sex.
Upton has a lovely eye for the quirky, and a deeply cynical view of humanity: in this play everyone is out for what they can get. Michael Mears is wonderfully sleazy as the dodgy proprietor of naff caffs and pier concessions and, in an outstanding stage debut, Jody Watson is sexy, funny and hard as nails as the go-getting young minx who takes everyone for a ride by letting them ride her. It's all good, clean, dirty fun, and Anthony Clark's production beautifully captures the raffish atmosphere of a down-at-heel resort.
Charles Spencer - The Telegraph 28/9/98.
Confidence, the new play in the Rep's studio theatre, adds little to Judy Upton's reputation for seriousness, but it demonstrates that she has a sense of mischief. Like her Ashes and Sand, which involved a gang of girls running wild, it is set in a tacky seaside resort. But this time it is about small-time crooks and con-men who are seduced, manipulated and outplayed by sharp-witted, sharp-faced Ella, nicely played by Jody Watson. Electronically operated dolphins for gullible tourists, surreptitious sex in the ice-cream booth, even the hamster in the deep-freeze: she controls everything and, although Upton ends up implying that she typifies today's restless, unattached youth, she enjoys her too much to care. It was the same with me.
Benedict Nightingale - The Times
[Everlasting Rose] [Ashes and Sand] [Temple] [The Shorewatchers' House] [Bruises] [Stealing Souls]
[Sunspots] [People on the River] [To Blusher with Love] [The Girlz] [Know Your Rights] [Confidence]
[The Ballad of a Thin Man] [Sliding with Suzanne]
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