Theatre N16, London – until 31 March 2017
Second Son’s Production of Dark Vanilla Jungle can be compared to watching a sunset. It starts off quite bright, with tales of hot summers and ice creams with her mother, ending in Epping Forest as we, along with Andrea, work out what went what wrong for her in his revival of Philip Ridley’s monologue.
I also found myself comparing it to Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle as Andrea enters the life of a disabled soldier and his mother. Andrea doesn’t have the excuse of being the devil but simply a messed-up woman who has been abandoned and unloved throughout her short life. Her mother and father abandon her with an equally unloving grandmother she doesn’t know, her first love isn’t who he says he is and is it any wonder she turns to a man who she knows can never love in return. Ultimately it looks at how an abuse of power to one, can turn into an abuse of power to others.
This production has its weaknesses; Emily Thornton seemed unsure of her lines and the decision to portray this native outer Londoner with her native Bradford accent seemed at odds with everything we had been told about the character. If it was about portraying Andrea as an outsider, then her story does that. The two simple props seemed to be a hindrance rather than a help and it is a shame. We need that feeling of claustrophobia in her cell, a feeling that Theatre N16 space did to great effect in Swifties, but here it felt like a poor direction decision from Samson Hawkins rather than the stumbling of a woman telling a big story in a small space.
It is a very out of sorts piece. Strengths, weaknesses, timelines and locations are all explored by this one character in 80 minutes. Ridley’s vivid detail from beginning to end, can be hard to stomach but it needs the minimalism this production provides to be truly believable. The piece fails to tidy up all the loose ends but this is part of the charm of the story and monologues in general. Can I trust Andrea? Can her despicable actions be boiled down to her despicable treatment? It is a timely revival as women constantly look at their place and role in society.