Revival of Philip Ridley’s Darkly Tragic Two-Hander.
1 hour 20, no interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7632
Until 22nd June
Ken Deed: 21st May
Twenty years ago when Philip Ridley’s two hander was first performed it no doubt had a visceral impact, dealing as it does with a savage killing of a gay man in a public convenience. No graphic detail is spared in the gradual revelation of the horrific murder of the eponymous Vincent River. I suspect however that its shock value and the social relevance of its focus on the hate crime of “gay-bashing” at the time masked the creakiness of its structure and Ridley’s writing.
The initial setup, bringing together Anita, the mother of the victim and Davey, who claims to have found Vincent’s mangled corpse, feels contrived and we struggle to find a credible connection between these two disparate characters as they circle warily and fractiously around each other. She has invited the rather unnerving Davey into her home, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that he appears to have been stalking her for weeks. She is struggling with her loss and she is drinking. He appears wired, both aggressive and fearful, needing, for reasons that are initially unclear, to make a connection with Vincent’s mother.
There is, throughout their interaction, a deal of exploration of memories, as Anita and Davy strip away their layers and gradually reveal themselves to each other. Anita, in an echo of what later befalls her son, we learn was bullied as a young seamstress. Davy, after initial evasion, recounts his sexual awakening. Ridley’s writing unfortunately has the tendency to drag the actors into the fallacy of playing these recounted moments as fully emotionally engaged relived experiences. We are thus left in an awkward no-mans-land between fantasy and psychological realism.
Louise Jameson, as Anita and Thomas Mahy, as Davey, certainly give fully committed, spirited performances, though Robert Chevara’s direction sometimes leans towards histrionic bellowing and away from subtlety.
I should say that on the night I saw it, much of the audience found it a more satisfying experience than I did. My own take on it overall was that this was a rather over cooked revival of what now feels like a rather awkward period piece. Of course, anti-gay hate-crime, as we are all too sadly aware, is still prevalent, both here and abroad, but the abhorrence and denial of homosexuality which the two protagonists both initially profess seems to be from an earlier era.