I've seen a few Philip Ridley plays in the last couple of years; I've not liked them all but some, like his most recent one Moonfleece
, I really enjoyed so only a few days ago I decided to book for the Landor's revival of his 2000 play, Vincent River
. I'm glad I did as while it's far from light it's compelling and, in this production, really well acted. Ridley's writing is very strongly rooted in London's East End so I guess sooner or later one of his plays was bound to be entirely populated by former Eastenders
stars. Nicola Duffett plays Anita; her son, the Vincent River of the title, was murdered in a brutal homophobic attack five months ago, and after a lifetime living in Shoreditch she's moved away to escape the memories (and the taunting of callous neighbours.) Davey (Elliott Jordan) is the young man who discovered her son's body, and he's been stalking Anita ever since. As he's not been particularly subtle about it, Anita knows this, and has finally found an excuse to invite him in and find out what he wants. Davey is haunted by the image of Vincent's face and thinks talking to Anita will help him move on. Naturally, as they start to talk we find out there's more than this really going on here.
There's some familiar Ridley elements here, the convoluted secrets that slowly come out, and even a speech involving dead bugs that reminded me of the dead animals in The Fastest Clock in the Universe
. What's really going on with Davey isn't particularly hard to work out, but this is only a 75-minute play and what mystery there is is about right for this smaller-scale setup. It's how the story comes out that's the main thing, and the play offers both a brutal look into hate-crime, and a moving account of the people left behind. Robert McWhir's production is beautifully tense, and very well-acted. I haven't watched Eastenders
since the mid-'90s but Duffett was a familiar face (did she play Clare's mum, who married Nigel?) Jordan was on the show more recently so he was new to me but on this evidence he should be one to watch, he gives an incredible performance as a damaged character, getting your sympathy while at the same time not showing his cards too early so the intrigue over his true identity can carry on a bit longer. In the closing minutes of the show I found myself annoyed that there were probably only about 20 or so people in the audience, and that the performance wasn't getting the attention it deserved. Not a comfortable subject matter but a very exciting evening's theatre all the same.Vincent River
by Philip Ridley is booking until the 15th of June at the Landor Theatre.