Saturday 24 March 2018

Vincent River @ The Park Theatre

Vincent River @ The Park Theatre

Philip Ridley has never been one to shy away from the most shocking elements of humanity, to get to the core of our darkest moments. Vincent River is no exception: confrontational and deeply moving.

Originally performed at the Hampstead Theatre in 2000, it's now revived at the Park Theatre under director Robert Chevara. Eighteen years after that premiere and the gay community are still striving for equality, to feel safe on the streets. This fictional story of a homosexual hate crime is as stunningly potent now as it ever was.

We never meet the victim, the titular Vincent. Instead we hear his story through the filter of his mother and the man who discovered his corpse in a public toilet. Davey (Thomas Mahy) arrives at the home of Anita (Louise Jameson) determined to discover as much as he can about the man behind the body. Anita, meanwhile, is only now learning about her son's nightly habits.

It's a heartbreaking play about the aftermath of a tragedy, the ghostly image of Vincent forming through anecdotes and a handful of childhood props, yet it brims with dark humour. Ridley's fast-paced dialogue is filled with surprising wit and juxtapositions, offering glimpses of humanity in this bleak situation. He draws us in slowly, the mystery meticulously crafted, before smacking us round the face with the horrifying truth, literally guiding us through the plot - "penny dropped yet?".

The performances from Mahy and Jameson follow suit. That humour ensures we immediately warm to each character: the cocky, intimidating, yet playful Davey and the grieving Anita who masks her sorrow with dry comedy. Both actors are utterly captivating, their performances balancing light and shade - we literally watch two people crumble before us. The effects are devastating.

More so, Jameson captures the tragedy of a mother forced to come to terms with her son's sexuality under the most brutal circumstances. For all her confidence and bravado early on she is a broken woman, equally outraged at her son's lifestyle as she is saddened to have never really known him. Mahy is exceptionally strong, but Davy is merely a catalyst in shattering Anita's world. As this immense, visceral, rollercoaster of a play rattles through to its conclusion, it leaves you breathless.


Watch: Vincent River runs at the Park Theatre until April 14th.

Vincent River @ The Park Theatre

Vincent River @ The Park Theatre
Photos: David Monteith Hodge