Tag Archives: Matthew John Wright

Radiant Vermin

Radiant Vermin

Jack Studio Theatre

Radiant Vermin

Radiant Vermin

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd November 2018


“For the first night of First Knight’s run it bodes devilishly well. A night to remember indeed”


We live in a world, apparently, where enough is never enough. Which is one of the assertions underlying Philip Ridley’s “Radiant Vermin” currently staged by First Knight Theatre at the Jack Studio Theatre. Admittedly there is nothing shockingly novel in this observation, but after ninety quickfire minutes in the company of the three actors who lead us through Ridley’s jet-black text, we are shown a whole new, fantastical perspective on the Faustian pact. Part ‘Brothers Grimm’, part ‘The League of Gentlemen’, this is a fable for today’s materialistic world, made particularly pertinent under the current barrage of ‘Black Friday’ ads the audience navigates to get to the theatre.

Director Dan Armour takes the bold choice of throwing his actors onto a bare stage, with no props, no set, no sound and, with the exception of one ‘devilishly’ climactic burst, no lighting cues. We’re relying on the drama alone. It begins when a young couple address the audience. All smiles and affability, their overemphasis on telling us they are ‘good people’ obviously makes us doubt. They are Ollie and Jill and, in the opening format of a kind of game show, they set the ball rolling, telling us how they came about acquiring their dream home. We might be appalled. Again, they tell us they are ‘good people’. It is only later that we begin to realise the reasons behind this over-insistence. Are we just like them? Would we do the same? How far would any of us be prepared to compromise our principals for our goals?

Revelations like this slap us in the face throughout, but the sting is sweetened by the sheer comedy and the outstanding performances. Matthew John Wright and Laura Janes, as the couple, handle the fast-paced dialogue with a commanding ease. Wright’s Ollie, with echoes of Reece Shearsmith, twists his morals as he bends to his own needs and greed, and to those of Jill, brilliantly played by Janes as the girl next door who swiftly evolves into Lady Macbeth. When they discover that they have been selected for what appears to be a government-sponsored housing scheme, they meet the sinister, omniscient Miss Dee, who offers them the perfect property. Oh, but there’s a catch: it is just the shell of a house. But when Ollie accidentally kills a local vagrant, the house miraculously acquires a perfectly equipped kitchen. Gradually, the couple realise that their creation of the ideal home is only achievable through murdering homeless people.

Emma Sweeney is a delight as the Mephistophelian Miss Dee, coaxing not just the actors onstage, but also the audience. She knows too much. With a mischievous grin, Sweeney gets her character spot on, and manages to keep her performance understated enough not to tip it into the realms of absurd fantasy. She is unrecognisable, too, when she doubles as Kay, one of the couple’s homeless victims, who touchingly allows herself to be led to the sacrificial altar.

The play isn’t without its diatribes, but what can you expect from Ridley? But there is more inherent comedy in this play than a lot of his work, which this talented trio masterfully highlight. When Janes and Wright hold a garden party for their child’s first birthday, they fill a jaw-dropping fifteen minutes of stage time playing each and every one of their ‘neighbours-from-hell’. A masterstroke of writing and acting it is worth seeing this show just for those few moments alone.

“Radiant Vermin” is a provocative satire about the housing market, the housing crisis, homelessness, inequality, greed, materialism, Godlessness, consumerism and conscience. Sounds diabolical! I don’t envy the person who had to pitch this production for the festive season. Yet the show is perfectly pitched by this dynamic team. For the first night of First Knight’s run it bodes devilishly well. A night to remember indeed.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Robert Piwko


Radiant Vermin

Jack Studio Theatre until 1st December


Last ten shows reviewed at the venue:
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | March 2018
The Golden F**king Years | ★★★ | April 2018
Kes | ★★★★★ | May 2018
The Night Alive | ★★★½ | May 2018
Stepping Out | ★★★ | June 2018
Back to Where | ★★★★ | July 2018
The White Rose | ★★★★ | July 2018
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018
Sweet Like Chocolate Boy | ★★★★★ | November 2018


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The Big Things – 2.5 Stars


The Big Things

Baron’s Court Theatre

Reviewed – 19th April 2018


“from bright beginnings this new play strays into troublesome territory”


Autism Spectrum Disorder is a difficult thing to succinctly explain. It’s range of perceptions it inflicts on sufferers towards the world around them vary, and in particular women are often undiagnosed. The Big Things from Kibo Productions explores the condition through the perspective of a couple’s relationship, moving through from their early stages right through to childhood and marriage. As in their relationship, from bright beginnings this new play strays into troublesome territory.

We are plunged straight into the endearing coupling of Malcolm and Grace. She works in the library whereas he is a postman, and it is their differences that attracts them. It is the fact that Grace is different to everyone else that draws Malcolm towards her. Through a series of short, sharp scenes we are led through their relationship in stages, from moving in through to marriage, parenthood and what lies beyond.

Mike Heath’s script moves succinctly from place to place. It jumps from location and time simply, but moves in the end far too quickly, appearing to lose confidence in the second half. It moves from small progressions up to their wedding with confidence but seems desperate in the end to make something happen. So, from the focus on the couple’s relationship we move towards ideas of motherhood, through to how we react to losing the people around us as we grow older. It is a shame, because the focus of the first half feels lost to a wedge of ideas that muddles us later as it tips almost into melodrama.

Sharon Willem’s production is clear and functional but seems to fail to carry the play’s subject matter fully. Some blunt soundtrack choices somewhat diminish some of the emotional impact the piece is aiming for, whereas occasions of discontinuity in how the production deals with the specific form of autism featured, varying the piece wildly. But throughout these are levied by some relatable humour towards an outsider’s approach to everyday interactions.

As a pair May Cunningham and Matthew John Wright have nice chemistry, and draw a couple of fine, detailed performances. They draw in their audience effectively when detailing the smaller moments, including their slight disconnects in perception. A piece of art on a canvas is functional and literal to Grace, whereas it conjures emotion and meaning from Malcom. This conflict coincides with an interesting area to explore for a play, but one that cannot quite stand on its own two feet. There is much for potential development here, but at this stage just feels short.


Reviewed by Callum McCartney

Photography by Sharon Willems


The Big Things

Baron’s Court Theatre until 5th May



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