The Bridge Theatre 'Guys and Dolls' review 2023


Nicholas Hytner’s brave re-imagining of Frank Loesser’s 1950s musical romantic comedy named Guys and Dolls is something to be admired. The story of Guys and Dolls is somewhat simple, it follows the romance between two gamblers and two women.

The couples are Sky Masterson (George Ioannides), a self-assured enigmatic gambler, whose luck never seems to run out, who did not bargain on falling for Sarah Brown (Celinde Schoenmaker), a pretty, puritanical Christian, who devoutly serves as a Sergeant of the local Mission. The second couple is the addicted gambler and craps game organiser, Nathan Detroit (Daniel Mays) who never could make it bigtime. His long time and long-suffering fiancée is Miss Adelaide (Marisha Wallace), a bold dancer at the Hot Box nightclub. Adelaide is not always the brightest and she grows weary of Nathan’s gambling ways and postponing of their marriage. She longs for a quiet life in the country with Nathan, away from New York.  

  In this play the Bridge Theatre is utterly transformed by Bunny Christie into the clubs, street corners and venues of the play, using methods like hanging lights that can move up and down, and a stage that can do the same. The most thrilling thing about this performance is not the acting and plotline, which are, in my opinion, somewhat lacking, but the immersive nature of it. Some audience members sit in the seats above, watching the play, but others do not have a seat but mill around the stage, watching the play from the inside, as it were. Often, the actors directly address the audience and there is much handing out of flyers.    Nicholas Hytner’s aim with this style of directing was to really make the audience feel the atmosphere of New York, and at certain times, Havana, in Cuba and the night clubs in these places. I have never been to a play this immersive before and it is an experience worth having. My only criticism of this style is that it somewhat detracts from the acting and it is difficult to fully engage with the story.

 As mentioned above, I did find the acting lacking, especially compared with other performances I have seen. It had touch of classical theatre in that there were all physical props, which made the acting more classical, which contrasted with the innovative directing and stage. Personally, I found this contrast made the performance second-rate. However, the play is one of a kind and I would most definitely recommend it.

 The play is based on the stories and characters by Damon Runyon and has music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. It premiered at the 46th Street Theatre on Broadway on November 24, 1950. The modern production, directed by Nicholas Hytner is performed at the Bridge Theatre, in London.