Trafalgar Studios, London – until 22 June 2019
Philip Ridley as a playwright is a theatre producer’s dream. The vivid scenes-capes that he creates tend not to require lavish casting nor expensive sets, being instead fleshed out by way of lengthy, descriptive monologues – windows onto the dysfunctional dystopia that Ridley perceives around him. The disappointment to the audience however is that when you’ve heard one Ridley monologue, it can feel like you’ve heard them all.
Vincent River is a two-hander that revolves around Anita, grieving for her dead son Vincent and Davey, a young man who, we come to discover, was connected to the dead young man. Lasting 90 minutes, the one-act piece never leaves Anita’s flat.
Louise Jameson is magnificent as the mourning mother, with a subtlety of nuance and tone in her performance that sits alongside the raging howls of her unimaginable grief. Notwithstanding the tortuous convolutions that Anita is subject to through Ridley’s prurient projections, Jameson remains masterful throughout. Thomas Mahy’s Davey however, even this long into the role (the production has transferred from a run last year at the Park Theatre) is too stilted, too often. Contrasted with Jameson’s genius, Mahy is found to lack credibility and heft in delivering his complex and occasionally unpleasant character.
The circumstances of Vincent’s death were a brutal homophobic hate crime, with the show’s programme notes making worthy reference to the prescience of Ridley’s writing (the play premiered in 2000) amidst the “otherings” of today, and the violence of prejudice that exists across the world. Sadly however such hateful violence is nothing new to mankind, with history telling us that it has been here forever. Ridley’s tawdry words, at times offering little more than a virtual peep show into graphic descriptions of verbally violent torture porn, tell us nothing new.