Tag Archives: Philip Ridley

Radiant Vermin – 4 Stars


Radiant Vermin

Ram Jam Records

Reviewed – 13th September 2018


“a fable for modern times but with an age-old message: be careful what you wish for”


We’re in the back room of a pub, candles flickering on cabaret tables under the dim lights. A bare stage, empty of set and props, gives no hint as to what is to come. We barely notice, at first, the two characters around which Philip Ridley’s “Radiant Vermin” centre, as they wander into the space. Were it not for the fact they are carrying their one-year old son we’d think they were just looking for their seat. Instead they head straight for the stage and introduce themselves. They are Ollie and Jill and they want to tell us about their dream home. All affability and charm they feel the urge to share with us some of the horrible things they did to get it. Through wholesome smiles they warn us we might find their story shocking, but they are “good people”. They did it all for their baby.

James Dart and Joy Bowers, as the couple, immediately draw us into Ridley’s outrageous and provocative drama. Playful but vicious, this very black comedy is a meditation on how far we will go to satisfy our materialistic greed. We’re not invited to judge them; in fact, we are almost made complicit. Their story begins with the arrival of the Mephistophelian Miss Dee, supposedly from a government-led housing department, who offers them a brand-new house. Jennifer Oliver brilliantly feeds just the right amount of supernatural menace into her eagerness to get the couple to agree to an offer that is literally ‘too good to be true’. Though there is a catch. The house is a bare shell and the renovation is down to the new occupants.

When Ollie accidentally kills a homeless intruder one night, the kitchen is miraculously transformed into the one of their dreams, which triggers the realisation that for each vagrant murdered, another room of the house is renovated. The speed with which this well-founded couple persuade themselves that new furnishings are worth a human life is staggering. The play could easily be construed as a rather blunt indictment of greed, another of Ridley’s rants against a godless society; but we are on subtler ground here and the sheer absurdity of the premise gives it a sharp comic edge.

Yet what is even sharper are the performances. The virtuosity with which James Dart and Joy Bowers deliver the quick-witted dialogue is what makes this piece thrillingly entertaining. Dart perfectly captures the disturbing malleability of the human spirit as he shapes his morals to justify his deeds and satisfy the needs of Jill – the Lady Macbeth figure brilliantly portrayed by Bowers. They are both gambling with the devil, and the two actors chillingly, yet hilariously, fall into the trap of not knowing when to quit.

Erica Miller’s fast paced direction keeps us, and the actors, on their toes throughout. This is a fable for modern times but with an age-old message: be careful what you wish for. But the many layers go way beyond that even. Like shattered glass it reflects many angles of today’s consumerist society in which, for some, having everything you could ever wish for is not enough anymore. Are we living in a world where decent people, through a desperate materialism, are able to drown their conscience in such drunken logic?

But Ridley’s polemics aside, this is a compelling production in a little gem of a venue which, although slightly off the beaten track, is well worth covering that extra ground to get to.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Erica Miller

Ram Jam Records

Radiant Vermin

Ram Jam Records until 17th September



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Moonfleece – 3 Stars



Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 27th March 2018


“Jaz Hutchins gives a stunning performance and makes the most of Ridley’s writing”


Novelist and playwright Philip Ridley has been cited as a pioneer of ‘in-yer-face’ theatre. Indeed his 1991 debut play The Pitchfork Disney was considered by many to have influenced the development of that style of work. In 2010 Ridley’s Moonfleece caused controversy when a Dudley arts centre cancelled a run as it felt the content “includes characters and themes of a political and potentially discriminatory nature”. The premise of the work is based around a gay relationship plus the advocates and victims of racism and homophobia. It traces a family with far right politics and the highly destructive and damaging results it eventually has on them.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Lidless Theatre are reviving Moonfleece in the compact stagespace studio at The Pleasance, London. Part of the project is supported by the Islington Youth Council who are serious about tackling the adverse impact hate crime has had on their community.

Upon entering the theatre it is clear the audience is going to feel part of the action, being up close and personal to the characters in the dilapidated East End tower block squat flat that the action will centre in. The set has two graffiti covered walls and the room is littered with debris and the seating is on two sides of the stage.

We are quickly introduced to the main character of the play – Curtis (Jamie Downie) a troubled young man who is part of a family hell-bent on spreading their fascist views to the surrounding neighbourhood. He returns uninvited to his old home with two of his henchman Tommy (Josh Horrocks) and the shaven headed unstable Gavin (Joshua Dolphin). They are dressed smartly, yet menacingly, in sharp grey suits with St George’s cross lapel badges on them. They are there for a séance in search of his lost brother’s ghost and over the next ninety minutes, we are introduced to a total of eleven characters who slowly add to the story that swings from shock violence to touching sadness. The main story is that of a dead brother who was banished by Curtis’ stepfather because of his sexual orientation. Though as with many Ridley plays, all is not what it initially seems.

When eventually the green haired wheelchair bound spiritual medium Nina (Adeline Waby) arrives the stage is ready for a showdown. There are a few characters that are arguably superfluous to the story but no doubt Ridley felt a reasonable need to include these to add both humour and further tension. The pace and substance of the play change when Zak arrives. Jaz Hutchins gives a stunning performance and makes the most of Ridley’s writing. It not only clarifies the story but it changes the pace and substance of the play.

Director Max Harrison has done well to revive this important piece of work, to fit so many characters into such a small space and to keep the pace moving well throughout. Designer Kit Hinchcliffe’s set makes the audience feel as though they really are in a squat. The lighting from Katy Gerard is basic though effective as is the sound design by Annie May Fletcher.

Overall this was a good showing of the play and as usual with Philip Ridley there is much to consider about the content when leaving the theatre.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Gregory Birks



Pleasance Theatre until 15th April


Vincent River | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | March 2018


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