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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Vernon God Little
Young Vic Theatre Spring 2007

One way to measure a dramatisation of a novel is whether it makes you want to run out and read the book. By that standard, Tanya Ronder's stage version of DBC Pierre's black comedy is a failure.

If the book is anything like the play, it is a rambling, shapeless, rhythmless, only-rarely-clever tale that sinks all-too-quickly into tediousness.

(Actually, I've since been told that the novel topped a recent list of Books People Buy But Never Finish Reading, so the stage version may have captured it perfectly.)

The central character is the friend of a Texas teenager who shot up his school, killing several classmates. Through the machinations of a story-hungry TV newsman, the innocent buddy is implicated in the crime, eventually being blamed for every other murder (and this is Texas, after all) in a few hundred mile radius.

He goes on the run and has a string of adventures culminating in his capture, conviction and - in a rushed final plot twist I didn't quite follow - release to live happily ever after.

Somewhere mixed up in all this are a blind woman, a couple of friendly Mexicans, some jailhouse philosophising on the absence of God and the evils of the market economy, and a phone-your-votes-in TV show to decide who on Death Row gets executed first.

And it makes very little sense, is very rarely funny, and drags on long after outstaying its welcome.

Director Rufus Norris does all he can to disguise the play in razzle-dazzle, and the best moments are purely theatrical - several interludes of ironic country music singing and line dancing, for example, and an engagingly staged drive through the Mexican night singing Ring of Fire in Spanish.

And there are energetic performances all around, especially from Colin Morgan as the hapless lad, Mark Lockyer as the TV sleazeball and others, and Mariah Gale as both a Nice Girl and a Nasty One.

But unless the book was a whole lot better than this, and you really liked (and finished) the book, you are not likely to find much to entertain you or hold you here.

(A revised version of the play was produced in 2011. Click here for our review.)

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Vernon God Little - Young Vic 2007