Southwark Playhouse, London – until 10 March 2018
With a title like Angry, one would expect a play of Osbornian proportions. Philip Ridley’s play, however, is a series of gender-neutral monologues. Developed with director Max Lindsay, the monologues vary in length and intensity, but most importantly all feature moments of anger (or anger-based incidents integral to their backstory).
On the evening I attended, Tyrone Huntley ‘opened’ the show and then proceeded to perform the third and fifth segments. Similarly, Georgie Henley performed the alternate monologues. This order is reversed the following evening, and so on.
Angry (which is the name of the first monologue, as well as the whole show) sees Huntley as a character who is furious at the world around him – including the audience.
Because of the intensity and prolonged nature of his vitriol, it makes for uncomfortable viewing. It does raise one question, however. If someone is not willing to calm down and listen, how can any bridges be built so there’s a two-way understanding with others?
In Bloodshot, Huntley is as different as could be from his first role, though the anger here manifests only momentarily at the beginning. An unusual coming of age story, one could tell a life-changing event would occur by the breadcrumbs Ridley lays, as the anger gives way to longing.
While Huntley’s character may have been in cloud 9 in Bloodshot, Now sees him travelling further still, into the heavens.
As for the other half of the evening, Henley shows great versatility in her respective monologues, outstanding from the off. In Okay, self-directed anger for procrastination leads to a purging of unhelpful vocabulary and a resolution to live in the moment. Henley’s speech is repeated again and again like a mantra, gaining speed but always intelligible. It’s both funny and impressive at the same time.
Dancing is the shortest of the evening’s monologues. Focusing on a night out with the boyfriend, it takes a very surreal turn, much to Henley’s annoyance. Once again, through her inflection, it is very amusing.
Without a doubt, the set piece of the evening is Air. The longest of the monologues, it charts the final moments of a young woman in a world that’s gone to hell. Jumping back periodically to her previously happy life, we fall in love with the character’s life – her time in a family-run book shop, meeting and falling in love with her partner, and caring for the community. Then life intervenes… It’s because of the rich detail and the time taken to establish ‘Her’ (pre- and post-happiness) that’s gives the monologue its emotive power. By the time the character is at her nadir, she is the personification of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, primal in her grief… If Ridley deserves credit for writing, Henley deserves all the credit she can get bringing it to life with such veracity, rawness and sincerity.
On the technical front, special mention should also be made of Cassie Mitchell’s light design and Jim Whitcher’s sound design, which accentuates the ambience of the evening.