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Radiant Vermin

Philip Ridley’s latest play, his first ‘comedy’, is an interesting one to watch so soon after Mike Bartlett’s hi-tech Game at the Almeida. They share the same thematic territory: the lengths to which people will go to secure a home of their own, a home of their dreams. But while Game was all about the method of presentation, here we have a purer form of theatre.

That’s not to say that Ridley’s play isn’t a bit blunt-edged; it’s heavy-legged and obvious in places, but it is finely tuned in its way, a fable-like tale, glittering with menace and laced with the supernatural. Gemma Whelan – who gave that incredibly febrile performance in Ridley’s solo show, Dark Vanilla Jungle – plays one half of a young married couple with a baby on the way. They are offered their ideal home by Amanda Daniels’ beaming Foxtons’ Mary Poppins; they only have to kill the occasional vagrant to have all they ever wished for. Soon they’re slaughtering people nightly as they renovate their home.

This is not a subtle piece, but it has its own potency, its own strengths and weaknesses. But then, in the middle of things, there’s this absolutely extraordinary sequence where Whelan, and her onstage husband Sean Michael Verey, recreate a garden party; they populate the entire stage with characters, and it’s the most precise, intense and breathtaking piece of performance, masterfully directed by David Mercatali, and it kicks the whole production up into the realms of the brilliant.

Dates: March 10–April 12, PN March 11

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Pared down yet potent new play by Philip Ridley