Transforming DBC Pierre’s Booker Prize-winning black comedy into a stage play was never going to be a straightforward exercise. It takes all of Tanya Ronder and Rufus Norris’ ingenuity to contain Vernon’s road trip across America’s southern states on the Young Vic’s stage.
Quite incredibly, the pair succeed superbly, recreating the cartoonish Deep South world of the novel in vivid, broad brushstrokes and producing the undoubted high point of the Young Vic’s re-opening season.
Sofas become cars with the addition of steering wheels and are sent careering across the stage and Ian MacNeil’s set is cast on rollers to allow scene changes to keep up with the narrative. Meanwhile, musical interludes are introduced to bring Texan and Mexican flavour to the action.
All this would have mattered little had Norris - a director with something of a Midas touch at the moment - not made a genuine discovery in newcomer Colin Morgan, as Vernon.
Full of restless energy and youthful charisma from start to finish, Morgan is an absolute delight and carries the weight of the production on his shoulders with ease and a certain swagger, in what is his major stage debut.
He is given fine support by a strong ensemble, with Mark Lockyer, as Vernon’s nemesis Lally, putting in a suitably despicable comic turn and Mariah Gale doubling up in the roles of Vernon’s two love interests also impressing.
If ever there was an answer to the criticism that theatre is moribund and middle aged, then this production is it.
Full of youthful bite and brutal satire of consumer and celebrity culture, the show zips through its running time of nearly three hours, barely stopping to take breath and the press night audience responded with deservedly ecstatic applause.
Surely a life beyond the Young Vic’s walls beckons.