Vincent River at the Trafalgar Studios: Tensely Paced and Strongly Acted
Judging by the copious amounts of gin drunk throughout Vincent River, one might assume that Davey’s early suggestion that he doesn’t drink is one of the many lies he tells when he visits Anita. The two are connected by Vincent, Anita’s dead son, and Davey has come to learn more about him. Bursting in to Anita’s living room after weeks of stalking her, truths about Vincent, Davey and Anita will all emerge as evening becomes dawn.
Philip Ridley’s Vincent River was first performed twenty years ago, but the increase in hate crimes post-Brexit has, according to director Robert Chevara, made the play strikingly relevant again. The show might benefit from a bit of an update to help it resonate more with audiences: the lack of references to phones or cameras can make it all feel dated. But violence sadly always has a place on the stage, and here Ridley uses it to explore the most basic of relationships between parents and children.
Chevara’s direction keeps the plot moving at a tense pace, and, due to the tight proximity of studio two in the Trafalgar Studios, there is little room to breathe throughout the show. Some of the best moments, for example when Davey gives Anita a foot massage, happen when the piece slows and replaces its loud and fast dialogue with silence.
Both actors are brilliant in Vincent River. Louise Jameson as Anita amazingly manages to project a confident shell whilst always allowing the cracks to be seen. Her howl of agony literally filled the room. Thomas Mahy as Davey is also strong, his erratic movements and temptations towards the corners of the set implying a man at the edge of his own mind following a difficult upbringing.
Given the play is situated solely in Anita’s new flat, which is littered with boxes, it’s impressive how intensely captivated the writing and performances are. Some moments distract from the unravelling both characters go through and the pitch of the show’s second half remains at the same level.
Vincent River is certainly an emotive exploration of grief, but one can’t help but wonder if some changes need to be made to make it feel completely relevant to these dark times.
Vincent River is at the Trafalgar Studios until 22nd June.
Photograph: Scott Rylander