We Need to Talk About Bobby (Off EastEnders)

EastEnders fans will remember experiencing shock and upheaval at the revelation that the culprit of a long-running murder whodunnit was 10 year old Bobby Beale. Prepare to relive those feelings again in Paperback Theatre’s We Need To Talk About Bobby (Off EastEnders), written by George Attwell Gerhards and directed by Lucy Bird. This hard-hitting play charts the decline of 12 year old child actress Annie. She and her parents are delighted by her role as Amy, the disturbed daughter in a well-known TV drama. However, as the themes covered by the show become more and more adult, Amy’s aggression begins to spill over into Annie’s day-to-day life, culminating in shocking consequences.

There may be no mention of Eastenders, but We Need To Talk About Bobby leaves much to be discussed.

We Need To Talk About Bobby does not make comfortable viewing for a variety of reasons that all collide to create a powerful drama. It is difficult to see Annie chatting away like a normal 12 year old, only to suddenly be yelling obscenities in a scripted argument on set. Her gradual breakdown is carefully plotted to be sensitive and not sensationalist. Annie’s parents are equally tough to watch, mostly due to their subtlety at the beginning of the play. They don’t aggressively force Annie into the limelight, but instead gently nudge her towards it, becoming so lost in the showbiz whirlwind themselves that they are blind to its devastating effects on her. You can see the conclusion coming a mile off, but it still holds impact.

All three performers are incredibly strong. Tara Groves plays Annie’s age very convincingly and her movements have clearly been carefully researched. Tom Bulpett plays a number of different roles successfully, but his part as Annie’s father stands out as adding some light humour to an otherwise dark production. Sophie Portway also holds multiple roles well, but as Annie’s hair stylist and confidant, she becomes the voice of reason in the play, a voice that devastatingly goes unheard.

Sound is the only area where We Need To Talk About Bobby falls short. The stage fails to recreate the stressful, bustling film studio that plays a key part in Annie’s breakdown. The sound-effects are very much lacking and the show feels far too quiet for most of the performance. Some music during scene changes could have made the awkward and lengthy blackouts feel much smoother.

Overall, this a powerful and thought-provoking performance that asks difficult questions about onscreen child violence. There may be no mention of Eastenders, but We Need To Talk About Bobby leaves much to be discussed.

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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The Blurb

'I'm not like most actors. I'm not acting.' Annie's 13 and she wets the bed. After landing a huge role in a late-night television drama, she's left alone in an adult world, struggling to make sense of the things she is told to say on camera. Soon, Annie's comfortable childhood begins to fall apart. Charting the decline of a young TV actress, this daring new play explores society's uneasy relationship with child violence. Debut play from George Attwell Gerhards. Produced by Paperback with the generous support of the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund.