Philip Ridley’s harrowing 2000 play has been revived at London’s Park Theatre and is as relevant as ever.
A grieving mother receives a visit from a young man, who – it is revealed – was the person to discover the body of her murdered son. It is quickly established that the attack was motivated by homophobia, and the conversation between the pair reveals shocking truths about the brutal death of a gay man.
Louise Jameson – who has recently cornered the market in playing the mother of gay sons – is on absolute top form as Anita, giving us a heart-rending performance that blazes with pain and pathos. Raw primal emotion is tempered by wit and wisdom – Jameson creates a very real person coping with terrible loss.
There’s some superb comedy – including some of the finest stoned acting that we’ve ever seen on stage – but this is a piece dominated by horror. Around halfway through, Jameson delivers a line concerning a gruesome detail about Anita’s son’s death with such impact that the horrific image lingers until the very end of the play… and beyond.
Thomas Mahy, as Davey, is a formidable presence, crackling and fizzing across the stage. Mahy impresses with an edgy performance as a young man full of dangerous secrets, a tightly-wound coil of energy that we really feel could snap at any moment. The chemistry between the two performers is compelling – in their respective quests for answers they circle one another and size each other up like a pair of wild animals – seeking the answers to questions that they don’t yet know how to ask. Masterful.
With a conclusion that is as satisfying as it can be under the circumstances, this is a very tough watch – but one that is absolutely worth it. Gripping, intense, and as pertinent now as it was eighteen years ago. Required viewing.
Gay Times gives Vincent River: ★★★★★
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