Last week we saw Vincent River at the Park Theatre – a Philip Ridley play, first staged at Hampstead Theatre in 2001, now revived and demanding to be seen.
With direction from Robert Chevara and a stellar cast – Louise Jameson and Thomas Mahy – here’s why you should.
It’s sharp and to the point
Everything happens in a single eighty minute act. As soon as the play begins the audience are plunged into the action as hoody-clad teenager Davey (Mahy) turns up on Anita’s (Jameson) doorstep with a black eye, claiming to have been the first person to have found her murdered son’s body.
As the play progresses we see the two characters begin to warm to each other and enter an implicit agreement to exchange information. Their conversations are frank and open, full of confessions and relentless probing of raw emotions. As an audience member your eyes are firmly glued to the stage.
In this two-hander Doctor Who’s Louise Jameson plays Anita opposite recent drama school graduate Thomas Mahy as Davey. Both performances match the intensity of Philip Ridley’s writing.
Jameson gives a brilliant performance of a conflicted Anita. She injects tenderness with pain, going from feeling compelled to be compassionate towards the youngster to becoming a revenge driven mother who desperately wants to establish the truth. You soon begin to understand how unbearable it must have been for her not to have had any closure prior to Davey’s arrival.
Meanwhile, Mahy gives an impressive London stage debut. Similarly to Jameson he combines tousled angst with a kind of vulnerability, whether that be playfulness or grief. You can really see how both actors have unpicked the emotions of the characters.
In Philip Ridley’s script the characters talk so descriptively flickering between past and present. Designer Nicolai Hart Hansen has chosen not to shift the setting from its original minimal set of a room in a rundown flat, but instead allows the actors to transport the audience into different times and locations. The writing is so detailed the audience go from being in a clothing factory to an engagement party to a deserted train station.
What you leave thinking
There is no one question at the centre of the play. This is a play about motherhood, adolescence, homophobia and hate crime, and you’ll leave realising how the context is still shockingly relevant today. Although there are some named locations in the play the script can almost be adapted to accommodate any town, in any city – maybe even yours.