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The Theatreguide.London Review

Vincent River
Landor Theatre  Spring 2010

I am assured by others that Philip Ridley's 10-year-old play can be an engrossing and powerful experience, so the fact that this production is only partly successful must be laid at the feet of director Robert McWhir, who has been unable to create and sustain a reality to support the characters and plot.

The mother of a man murdered in a particularly horrible gay-bashing incident meets the teenager who discovered the body. The boy actually seems more traumatised than the woman, which at first seems odd until their wary bonding and telling of their stories leads to significant revelations.

Of course the boy has a secret, and while it is not the obvious first thing you thought of, it is probably the second or third, which means that the play's big discoveries are something of a letdown.

Fortunately, the real interest of the play lies less in the goal than in the journey, the process of the two characters opening up to each other and opening themselves up to their pain.

And some of the most touching and evocative moments come as we realise that they are each using the other as a surrogate, the boy saying things he was unable to say to his own recently dead mother, the woman hearing things her son was unable to tell her.

But those are just isolated moments. For too much of the play's ninety minutes director McWhir can find no answers to the basic questions facing any play: why are these two people in the same room, why are they saying what they say, and why are they sitting there listening to what is being said? 

Each character has several extended speeches of description and narration and, while they sometimes play like audition pieces, both Nicola Duffett and Elliott Jordan deliver them well, conjuring up both the thing being spoken of and the emotions of the speaker.

But they are both much less successful as listeners, giving little sense of what hearing what is being said does to them or, indeed, of whether they are hearing it at all.

Both actors have extensive experience on TV soaps, and it's almost as if they consider themselves off-camera, with no need to sustain a reality while the other one is speaking.

But even if one can blame them for that tendency, it was the job of the director to correct it and to guide them toward understanding and conveying what was going on within their characters when they weren't speaking, and he hasn't.

For this production of Vincent River to work for you, you'll have to cherry-pick the strong bits, and fill in for yourself what the other parts should have been like.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Vincent River - Landor  Theatre 2010


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