Review: Vincent River
Image: Park Theatre
Davey has seen something he can never forget.
Anita has been forced to flee her home.
Tonight, they meet for the first time ... and their lives will change forever.
Philip Ridley's modern classic was a huge success when it premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in 2001, and a West End smash in 2007.
Thrilling, heartbreaking and darkly humorous by turns, it is now seen as one of the most powerful explorations of hate crime - and society's need to crush 'difference' - ever written.
This drama by Philip Ridley, first produced in 2000, features two characters looking for answers about an extremely violent and untimely death.
Louise Jameson's Anita has just moved into a run-down flat in Dagenham after leaving her East End home following the murder of her son Vincent.
She's had to move after discovering her son was gay in the aftermath of his brutal death, and the widespread publicity which accompanied it.
Louise Jameson and Thomas Mahy - photo by David Monteith Hodge
A teenager called Davey (Thomas Mahy) has been following Anita and now she's invited him into her flat, hoping to fill in the many blanks in her understanding of what happened to her son.
At the start of Philip Ridley's profoundly moving play there's little to indicate what these characters have in common.
But we quickly find that the 'penny drops' (to use a phrase repeatedly used in the play) as we're drip-fed facts and then easily pick-up on what is to come in the denouement.
That doesn't matter because this is not really a 'whodunnit'.
Nicolai Hart Hansen's design for Anita's newly-acquired home is little more than a blank canvas waiting to be filled-in - white paint covers the window, an old sink sits in one corner and the sofa is covered with a dust sheet.
Packing boxes still lie around, and it all looks like someone has work to do to invigorate the place, reflecting Anita's need for answers to provide some closure to her son's excruciating demise.
Although the hate crime which brought these two characters together is central to the piece - Vincent River is not as concerned with the violent murder itself, but more with a young man seeking to exorcise his tormenting demons and guilt.
Eighty minutes of running time fly by in a trice thanks to well-matched, edgy and entirely convincing performances.
Louise Jameson's East End mum is a down to earth woman who understands victimisation from her own experience of it.
But though she's been forced to move home to escape the gossip surrounding her bereavement, that doesn't mean she's unassertive, easily duped or hoodwinked.
In fact, she clearly understands more than Davey appreciates right from the moment they first meet, and she carefully and deliberately steers the edgy, streetwise teenager to a place where he can divulge what he really knows about Vincent's death.
Thomas Mahy as Davey - photo by David Monteith Hodge
And when the moment of revelation comes, his account of events comes gushing and tumbling out in a phrenetic torrent, captured in a mesmerising and brilliantly timed sequence from an immensely talented recent graduate, Thomas Mahy.
You could have heard a pin drop among the riveted and appreciative Saturday night audience in Park 90 during this performance.
And the final reception for the actors certainly seemed to match my assessment of both the superb, well-contrasted performances and Philip Ridleys' powerfully-written play - unmissable stuff.
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