The work of Philip Ridley is undergoing a Renaissance of sorts at the moment, what with several of his plays performed in London recently. The latest revival of Vincent River, which is directed by Robert Chevara, is in many ways a contemporary retelling of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. Set in Shoreditch and the East End of Philip Ridley’s youth, Vincent River is a two-hander starring Louise Jameson as Anita and Thomas Mahy as Davey.
Spying a young man hanging around her new flat in Dagenham, Anita invites him in out of the cold. “Why?” you might ask. Well that’s part of the play’s ongoing search for answers, but Anita admits she has a hunch Davey knows about her son Vincent – things that weren’t disclosed in the newspapers…
What next takes place is quid pro quo, as each divulges personal anecdotes about Vincent and in the process reveal things about themselves – much more than they plan to consciously.
As a character, Anita is anything but predictable. Being a single mother isn’t unusual nowadays, but her choices as a younger woman mark her out to be independently-minded and not easily dissuaded. Having said all that, while Anita knows about her son’s predisposition, she doesn’t like others describing him in uncouth terms.
As someone who hails from the East End too, Davey knows all of the places Anita knows. While they bond over streets they both know, this proves to be Davey’s undoing, as Anita senses something amiss with his story.
The chemistry between Jameson and Mahy is palpable and while there is a frisson during their heated moments, they allow each other space to shine during their respective monologues.
There’s a line in the play that talks about what happens when you meet that special someone and life bursts into colour – much more vividly than before, like the brightness on a television turned right up. It’s lines like these that Ridley tugs at our heartstrings and reminds the audience of how good the first bloom of love can be – which only make the play’s final revelations all the more tragic.
I said at the beginning that Vincent River could be said to be a contemporary retelling of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. I’ll qualify that statement. In Williams’ play, it’s hinted that Sebastian’s fate was a result of his ‘prowling’. In contrast, Anita’s son is anything but a predatory character and what he’s subjected to is hatred of the greatest magnitude.
Davey’s final monologue and the primal scream that follows will forever remain with the audience…
© Michael Davis 2018
Vincent River runs at Park Theatre until 14th April