Sunday, June 15, 2008

Vincent River

Photo/Carol Rosegg

Despite the tumultuous subject matter of Vincent River--a boy, haunted by the body he discovered, confronts the victim's mother--the play is more like a lazy river than whitewater. Philip Ridley has written two very deep and human characters, Davey and Anita, but in his rush to have them spill their guts, he fails to make a connection, and the play runs aground on that shallowness. For a while, Deborah Findlay and Mark Field do enough to steer the show onward, but the last, inevitable third, in which we find out how Davey was involved in the murder, is so calm and removed that it fails to have an impact.

The problem lies in the narrative, which forces revelation, rather than honestly finding it. Anita, a shrewd 53-year-old woman, strong and self-reliant, acts like it's an interrogation, grilling Davey for information. She cross-examines the story he's telling: first, that he has a girlfriend (the body was found in a bathroom known for random gay hookups), and then his reasons for taking her on a "shortcut" through Shoreditch Rise. When that fails, she proposes that they trade information--he'll tell her about the body, and she'll tell him what Vincent was like--so that they can both stop feeling so haunted. But even that's not enough: she guides him--hypnotherapy like--through his memories, and he gives her pot and does reflexology to loosen her up. But it's artificial, and the finale comes across like something out of The Usual Suspects, as she pieces enough of his lies together to prod him toward the truth--even Davey says "the penny dropped."

It's understandable for Philip Ridley to want his words to drop like bombshells, but in rigging the flow of information, he ends up bottling humanity. There are short bursts of it every time the story gets away from describing Vincent's death, but despite the considerable skills of the actors, they can't steer the play away from its procedural heart.

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