When it premiered 18 years ago, Vincent River was seen as a departure for Philip Ridley. Moving away from the slightly fantastical, surreal tone that had characterised his first three adult pieces – The Pitchfork Disney, The Fastest Clock in the Universe and Ghost from a Perfect Place – the play sat very much in this world, here and now, in its exploration of the impact of a vicious homophobic hate crime.
In 2018 it’s still depressingly topical, and Robert Chevara’s production, with an acute, intense performance by Louise Jameson, becomes a chilling study of raw grief. Jameson plays the mother of the victim Vincent, visited by Davey who found the body and wants to know more about Vincent’s life.
There’s so much range and melody in Jameson’s voice. She is, callous and tender, fierce and frightened. Thomas Mahy’s Davey is a sullen teenager whose sulky demeanour occasionally drops. The character gets a brilliant unbroken monologue of a climax which Mahy – making his London professional debut – pulls off rivetingly.
Both characters are so flighty, turning in an instant from one mood to another, that it’s hard to make that convincing on stage. By and large, Chevara accomplishes it. It’s nicely directed, the two actors moving in slow, prowling circles around the stage. At points they’re mutually frightened of each other, and shouting in each other’s faces at others. Some of the quicker dialogue, however, feels contrived and awkwardly paced.
Even though play’s shock factor hasn’t really diminished in 18 years, what stands out now more than anything is how fantastic a role this is for an older woman – particularly in the thrillingly, uncomfortably tender moment when Anita and Davey kiss – and Jameson pulls it off perfectly.