Reviewed – 23rd March 2018
“brutal and lyrical, appalling and somehow poetic”
When going to a Philip Ridley play you know there will be bleakness, anger and what the critic Aleks Sierz christened In-Yer-Face-Theatre. Vincent River has all that, and some whip-smart comedy to lighten the load. It’s a brilliant, fierce piece of writing, beautifully brought to life in this production by the superb performances of Louise Jameson and Thomas Mahy.
Robert Chevara directs with a sense of rhythm and choreography that produces a natural rise and fall of narrative and emotion. The story unfolds against a backdrop of East London locations and a harsh, vicious homophobia that shocks and saddens. The set is a plain room that Anita has just moved into. It is not yet a home, just a place. Nicolai Hart Hansen has judged the mood well with his set and costume design, providing enough of a background to support the story without imposing itself.
Vincent River was written in 2000 and, as Chevara says in the programme notes, ‘it is even more prophetic and prescient now than the it was first produced.’ Hate crime has risen by 29% in the past year, but hate crime against LGBTIQA people has risen by 80%. Also in the notes, Chevara says that Ridley suggests, in this play, ‘that only through honesty can we find absolution.’ And the honesty blazes in both the writing and the performances. It is brutal and lyrical, appalling and somehow poetic. The tension between the characters of Anita and Davey is like a thread of elastic, twisting and pulling through fear, distrust, sexuality, disgust and a kind of acceptance. The connection between Jameson and Mahy is palpable, as their characters navigate the minefield of emotions, eventually finding the honesty that both characters need.
Thomas Mahy is a recent graduate of Drama Centre London, and is absolutely equal to the challenge of acting with the vastly more experienced Louise Jameson, who is known for her illustrious TV roles (most notably Doctor Who’s assistant Leela in the 70s), not to mention a theatre career that has taken her to the RSC and the National Theatre. It’s good to see a new actor clearly on the way to a promising career.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by David Monteith Hodge
Park Theatre until 14th April