An intense, dark and disturbing experience exploring the aftermath of a gay hate crime.
You know going into a Philip Ridley play that it’s never going to a comfortable experience and this play, first staged in 2000, is no exception. Ridley takes a gay hate crime as his subject and explores the grief, pain and anger of the two people caught in the aftermath. It is an intense and gut wrenching experience.
Teenager Davey (Thomas Mahy) has witnessed something absolutely horrific. Anita (Louise Jameson) is mourning the death of her son. Forced to flee her home when the sordid details of her son’s death are made public she escapes to ride out the storm and grieve in private – until Davey turns up on her doorstep.
The production rests completely on the partnership and chemistry of the two actors and director Robert Chevara has been blessed with Mahy and Jameson. In this dark night of the soul they both drink, smoke, laugh, scream and writhe around in their own private pain and loss. Secrets and souls are laid bare and nothing is beyond reproach. It’s painful, violent, poetic and at times beautiful.
Barely out of drama school Mahy is captivating with his brooding intensity. He physically embodies the teenage angst and torment of this character on the rack. Ridley’s famously enormous monologues can leave a more seasoned actor floundering, however Mahy handles them with fantastic skill and precision. It is a raw and honest performance that is a pleasure to watch.
Jameson has a thousand-mile stare that conveys the pain and horror of her circumstances but also the fun and mischievous glee of a life truly lived. She combines an animal ferocity with a humour and lightness of touch even in the darkest of moments. It is an utterly fearless performance.
With hate crimes dominating the headlines seemingly every day, this is a chillingly timely production of a classic play. With scorching performances it is a night of intense theatre that is deeply unsettling and will stay with you long after lights out.
Vincent River plays at London's Park Theatre until 14 April.
Words by Matthew Hyde