Angry review at Southwark Playhouse, London – ‘skilled performances, disjointed writing’
Philip Ridley’s new play consists of a sextet of monologues. These have been written to be gender neutral and Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley will take turns performing them across the show’s run.
There’s a lot of familiar Ridley business on display here – apocalyptic scenarios, space, violence, screaming, things that sparkle – but little sense of a connecting thread.
The first is a tirade, performed on the night I saw it by Huntley, in which he spits rage at the audience. The second is more of a skit, performed by Henley with an American accent .
There’s something intriguingly uneasy about Bloodshot, a story about an erotic encounter in Victoria Park, performed with intensity by Huntley, even though it doesn’t really go anywhere. The other, shorter pieces feel like little more than scribbles or off-cuts, notes unearthed from the back of the sofa. It’s only the last and longest piece, Air, performed by Henley, that feels fully developed and genuinely engaging.
Air begins as a bookshop meet-cute and devolves into something horrifying, as the world that Ridley has set up is ripped apart by war. Henley throws herself into it with relish, moving convincingly from the endearing awkwardness of a first date to the numbing despair of watching her loved ones die while desperately trying to save herself. It’s an impressive stage debut, a nimble and skilful performance.
The whole thing is energetically directed by Max Lindsay, music pulsing, the actors pacing a silver, mirrored pit, designed by James Donnelly and lit by Cassie Mitchell‘s neon grid, the lights bleeding red or glinting like stars. But it’s not quite enough to shake off the feeling that this is a collection of B-sides, hastily stitched together.