The claustrophobic environs of the Trafalgar Studio 2 make Vincent River uncomfortable viewing. The tight seating, enclosing the stage on three sides, brings the audience squirmingly close to two characters struggling to deal with the violent murder of the man who links them, the eponymous but ever absent Vincent. Matthew Amer attended the first night.
You do wonder why, at the onset of Philip Ridley’s drama, a single, aging woman would invite into her house the teenage hoody that has recently taken to following her every move. But Anita is a strong, confident woman, more domineering than dominated, and she can sense that teenage Davey knows something about the death of her son.
What follows is an information trade off, as Anita slowly works her way past Davey’s stories to the truth about the night Vincent was killed.
Lynda Bellingham brings a light touch to Anita, a character close to descending into a pit of grief, casually slipping a touch of comedy into her performance before the audience has had a chance to realise. Mark Field’s Davey is a classic teenager, brooding, angry, confused, desperate to grow up, but also desperate to be mothered. The progression of the piece sees the pair’s increasingly intimate relationship take on a parent/child dynamic as both attempt to fill an emotional hole.
Ridley’s script is deeply embedded in its Bethnal Green setting; road names and locations are key to discovering the truth, which Anita attempts, sometimes with the cunning of Cracker or Columbo. His descriptions of the attack are visceral and shocking while often aesthetically intriguing; the mixture of settling snow, the chill in the air, broken glass and spilt blood paint an emotive image.
Though uncomfortable viewing, Ridley’s drama is an engaging exploration of loss, family, changing taboos and the life-long effect they can have.
Vincent River runs at the Trafalgar Studio 2 until 17 November. em>MA