The Talented Mr Ripley
Wilton’s Music Hall
Reviewed – 22nd May 2019
“Dynamic, thrilling and imaginative”
We first see Tom Ripley, clicking away at his typewriter keys, with his back to us. Turning around he asks us “Have you ever had the feeling you are being watched?” It is a leitmotif that bookends the show and many of the scenes within; and its delivery sets the scene, tearing down the fourth wall and drawing us completely into the mind of the character. For the next two hours we are hooked.
The slightly unsettling thing about witnessing The Faction’s “The Talented Mr Ripley” at Wilton’s Music Hall (and indeed reading Patricia Highsmith’s original 1955 novel) is how much you find yourself rooting for a double murderer. You want him to win – to get away with it. Orphaned and brought up by a cold, judgemental aunt, he is quite vulnerable, starry-eyed and charmingly naïve. But also, he is clever and able to outwit all around him, escaping from scrapes with flair and downright good luck. Christopher Hughes, as Ripley, plays on this dichotomy with sheer brilliance. A stunning performance during which he never leaves the stage, and during which you cannot keep your eyes off him.
But for all the attention Hughes attracts, there is still plenty of focus on the full ensemble in this tour de force of storytelling, particularly Luke Shaw as the shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf who sets the wheels of Ripley’s adventures in motion. Herbert’s son, Dickie, is living it up in Italy showing no signs of coming home. Mistakenly believing Ripley to be a close friend of Dickie’s he offers him an all expenses paid trip to persuade the wayward son to return to the roost. Eyeing a way out of the mess his life has become in America (and of course a free holiday), Ripley readily accepts and unwittingly takes his first step onto his murderous journey. A trail that winds dangerously through the plot twists with a white-knuckle intensity.
Christopher York is captivating as Dickie, and with Natasha Rickman’s Marge; the triangle is complete, although with Ripley kept on the margins rather than fully being allowed to steal into the lifestyle he so covets. So instead he steals lives and identities. Mark Leipacher’s direction keeps us on our toes, adding further twists into the already knotted narrative. Minor characters morph into shadowy figures that prey on Ripley’s paranoia and conscience. The action is occasionally brought to a halt with the cry of “Cut!” and the scene replayed with the outcome Ripley wants. He is, after all, in control, though the double-take suggests that he’s not a villain. He’s just busking it really – making it up as he goes along.
But that definitely can’t be said of this company’s inventive interpretation of the story. This is undoubtedly finely thought out. Dynamic, thrilling and imaginative.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Richard Davenport
The Talented Mr Ripley
Wilton’s Music Hall until 25th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: