Tag Archives: Philip Ridley

tarantula

Tarantula

★★★★

Online via Southwark Playhouse

tarantula

Tarantula

Online via Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 30th April 2021

★★★★

 

“this twisted script and Henley’s gut-wrenching execution are plenty to keep us at home one more night, voraciously glued to the screen”

 

I first encountered Philip Ridley as a teenager, reading Pitchfork Disney, his 1991 play about an agoraphobic brother and sister who survive on chocolate and horror stories of the outside world. I’d never read anything like it; the strange recipe of graphic and often violent subversion coalescing with playful whimsy and childish naivety. Like Roald Dahl on a nasty come-down.

Ridley doesn’t appear to have changed his tune in his newest play, Tarantula, in which we accompany sweet adolescent Toni on her first real date with a boy she really fancies, and then, rather suddenly, through a harrowing near-death attack and the ensuing trauma it inevitably spawns.

Georgie Henley’s performance is rich and complicated. Unlike most trauma narratives, Henley’s Toni never loses her desire to be liked and likeable, and to maintain a sunny disposition. Rather than descending into shadowy darkness, Toni is desperate to see the light, making the story all the more troubling. Her smile stretches wider and wider until we can hardly see her at all, in her place just a manic plea for everything to be okay.

Ridley has also never shied away from casual domestic subversion and he does so with such ease, it feels crass to bring it up. But it also feels important and worthy of applause, so needs must. In this case it’s Toni’s dad who stays at home with the kids, whilst her mum tries her hand at various jobs. Toni’s older brother, a seeming classic trouble maker who, in someone else’s story would likely continue to represent something nasty and unlikeable, reveals depth and an unexpected self-awareness. And it appears that everyone is fairly sexually fluid and suffers no judgement. None of this is dwelled upon at all, which is what makes it so completely refreshing.

The one-woman format with little to no production – flood lighting becomes spotlighting on occasion, and half way through Henley removes a t-shirt to reveal sportswear – has become fairly commonplace in the past year, and understandably so what with theatres having to constantly change their programming to fit with fresh lockdowns and social distancing. Nonetheless it seems quite brave to do this only a couple of weeks before theatres (hopefully) open as usual, when attention spans are at an all-time low and everyone is so desperate to leave the house, we’re sitting outside restaurants in jumpers and coats, huddling beside outdoor heaters and pretending it’s not just started raining.

But Ridley was never going to have a problem holding the audience’s attention and director Wiebke Green clearly knows that. Whilst two hours is quite a lot to ask of an online audience at the moment, this twisted script and Henley’s gut-wrenching execution are plenty to keep us at home one more night, voraciously glued to the screen.

 

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

 


Tarantula

Online via Southwark Playhouse until 1st May

 

Have you read this review?
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021

 

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Vincent River
★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

Vincent River

Vincent River

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 21st May 2019

★★★★

 

“Mahy’s performance perfectly condenses an unstable and volatile mix of anger, vulnerability, belligerence and dependence”

 

Philip Ridley is a playwright whose finger is always on the pulse, and even though “Vincent River” was written at the birth of this century it has lost none of its punch. Unfortunately, this has as much to do with how slowly society changes as it does with the timeless quality of the writing. During the last five years, homophobic hate crime has reportedly been rising. What is seldom reported is the aftermath: the personal story that this play heart-breakingly throws into the spotlight.

Anita is in her new flat, having been forced to flee her previous home. A youth has wandered in through the door into her living room. He is Davey, wearing a black hoodie, a black eye and an even darker obsession with Anita whom he has been stalking for months; ever since Anita’s son, Vincent, was murdered by thugs in a disused railway station’s toilet. Over the next eighty minutes, these two characters fight to understand themselves and each other. Played out in real time the audience are drawn in so much that we feel like the third character in this drama.

The rhythm and melody of Ridley’s dialogue is a gift for the two actors, and under the assured direction of Robert Chevara, the pulse never wavers. Thomas Mahy plays Davey like a dangerous dog whose threat of menace and aggression can be swiftly curbed with a flash of Anita’s bared teeth. Mahy’s performance perfectly condenses an unstable and volatile mix of anger, vulnerability, belligerence and dependence. Yet the undoubted force that drives this piece is the charismatic Louise Jameson, with her matchlessly poignant portrayal of a mother suffering her worst nightmare. A naked study of grief for the loss of a son that is believable throughout. Her raw pain is the skeleton upon which she drapes cloaks of humour, scorn and even tenderness. We are riveted right up to the climax when she finally rips through her armour with a blood curdling howl.

Jameson and Mahy circle each other like wild cats on Nicolai Hart Hansen’s simple and effective set that conveys Anita’s new flat with just a sofa, some unpacked boxes and quite a few opened bottles of gin. But beneath the humdrum stillness of the surroundings runs the vicious undercurrent of Vincent’s murder. The overall effect is hypnotic and electrifying. This is one of Ridley’s more accessible scripts, rooted in reality rather than veering off into the surreal promiscuity or gothic gratuitousness he is known for. But it is no less provocative – in fact its naturalism strengthens the message. The honesty of these performers makes us question the honesty with which we lead our own lives. Truth hurts – but we need that pain in order to start the healing process.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Vincent River

Trafalgar Studios until 22nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Silk Road | ★★★★ | August 2018
Dust | ★★★★★ | September 2018
A Guide for the Homesick | ★★★ | October 2018
Hot Gay Time Machine | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019

 

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