Vincent River credit David Monteith Hodge

“Vincent River” at the Park Theatre

This welcome revival of Philip Ridley’s play from the year 2000 benefits from the sound direction of Robert Chevara. Confident with the superb storytelling, Chevara gives the text space, expertly judging time for vivid images to linger. Elements of a mystery story in this tale of an encounter between a bereaved mother and an enigmatic stranger add a more conventional element to the piece than is common with Ridley, and, again, Chevara makes the most of this – the plot is gripping. But Ridley’s dark imaginings are present, too, with the account of a vicious hate crime and the grief at its aftermath portrayed with startling originality.

Louise Jameson and Thomas Mahy take the roles of Anita and Davey, connected by the murder of Vincent. As the frequently angry mourning mother, Jameson is superb, conveying a moving, mounting pain as the play progresses. She’s initially suspicious of Davey’s motives for seeking her out, and the tension between the two is riveting. In this enigmatic role, Mahy seems a little trapped by his accent and doesn’t fully explore the dangerous eroticism of the character – Ridley’s suggestions of precocious sexuality are disturbing – yet the performance is full of nervous energy and always exciting, especially with the expert unravelling of his secrets.

Thomas Mahy
Thomas Mahy

The ideas about bodies, families, and memory – each so poetically conveyed – make Ridley’s writing the star of the show. An obsession with geography, with descriptions of places and their history, creates a visceral sense of East London and community. Toxic relationships battle with affection and romance throughout. Ridley’s descriptions of desire and the body, with such a tangible sense of fragility arising from the violence and illness in the play, are brilliant. Recounting trauma is common enough in theatre, but the stories Ridley’s protagonists tell each other have a therapeutic quality of intense emotion. A “mosaic of hands” in an artwork described by Davey might be a metaphor for how Ridley works. The result is a play of peculiar power.

Until 14 April 2018

Photos by David Monteith Hodge