Vincent River

Wed 30th January – Fri 1st February 2013

reviews

Saoirse McStay

at 02:08 on 31st Jan 2013

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After seeing a play, it is extremely rare that I find myself unable to stop enthusiastically discussing with others all the things about it that I loved, and even more rare that I am still buzzing with excitement more than an hour after it has finished. Philip Ridley’s ‘Vincent River’, however, staged in the charmingly intimate Wardrobe Theatre, and brilliantly directed by Owen Petty, left not only myself, but the entire audience both utterly speechless and astounded by the end.

Certain aspects of the play, such as its East London setting, or the somewhat stereotypical characters could have made the entire thing seem rather a cliché, yet both Gemma Sort-Chilvers (Anita) and Ben Schroder’s (Davey) portrayal of the characters appear wholly realistic and entirely convincing. The interactions between the characters towards the beginning of the play appeared a little forced, with Schroder’s lines often slightly underplayed or softly spoken in comparison with Sort-Chilvers’ curt, forceful delivery (by no means a criticism), but as the play progressed and the plot gained momentum Schroder really came into his own; his monologues towards the end of the play were incredibly moving, the audience becoming noticeably tense and deadly silent as the play reached the crux of the plot.

During the first half of the play, Sort-Chilvers appears to be the central force. Her performance as Anita is enthralling, powerfully yet somehow casually delivering witty lines undercut with sinister implications. Though the second half of the play centres mainly on Schroder’s character, she remains still convincing as a mournful mother, at no point in the play appearing nervous or coming out of character.

The script is, at times, somewhat lacking. The scene in which the two laugh over memories from Anita’s box is slightly awkward, but the rapid pace and brilliance of the script elsewhere more than makes up for this. I must also commend Petty on the simplicity of the set, with minimal lighting changing only once to denote the passage of time from day to evening, and props only used when necessary for the script, which prevents any unnecessary distraction and keeps the audience entirely focused, further helped by the intimacy of the venue, the audience feeling as though they are quite literally in the room with the characters.

Overall, a highly enjoyable performance with excellent performances from both Sort-Chilvers and Schroder, truly brilliant in its naturalism. Gripped from start to finish, I would definitely recommend it, and would even consider going back to watch it again, as a second viewing would almost definitely reveal far more than the first. A disturbingly dark, intricately woven, yet somehow very humorous piece that is sure to entertain.

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Amber Segal

at 11:22 on 31st Jan 2013

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After surrendering the battle against my somewhat obstructed view from one of the sold out benches of the Wardrobe Theatre, I became increasingly engrossed in Philip Ridley’s Vincent River, smoothly directed by Owen Petty. The play is a two-hander; Gemma Sort Chilvers as Anita is joined by Ben Schroder playing mysterious teenager Davey who walks into her flat unannounced. From this moment, the back and forth between the chatterbox mother Anita and Schroder’s initially somewhat cagey Davey constantly breaks expectations and mounts with exhilarating tension. After one or two slightly unsatisfactory motions to leave near the beginning, we are settled into the idea that the drama will take place only around Anita’s table and within the conversation. Despite this, there is more than enough drama for such a word-heavy play. The flashes of action are well choreographed  and shocking enough to side-step the clichés that the script, every so often, comes close to fulfilling.

Apart from an unintentionally surreal moment with a disguised electric cigarette, the realism of the tricky dialogue is held strongly by the actors. While Chilvers’ accent at times seems slightly over-zealous and Schroder’s expressions occasionally err on the side of melodrama, overall both performances had impressive emotional depth and elevated the piece far above an average student production. Especially towards the end, Schroder’s domination of the stage was perfectly complimented by Chilvers’ subtle yet convincingly horrified reactions creating a powerful chemistry and development from the preliminary dynamic. The unfortunately large head in front of me seemed to disappear as the entire audience was sucked into enthralled silence for the climax.

While the well-designed set and costumes do not change for the entire piece, the story takes us from Bethnal Green, to Shoreditch, New Cross, ‘Vicky Park’ and Brick Lane among many other namedropped London scenes as the capital is forcefully weaved through the dialogue. This is an example of the scope covered during the hour and a half as the odd-couple explore much more than their shared town through anecdotes that never bore. The tone is set by a ‘deformed baby’ joke in the midst of Anita’s initial cascade of speech and the language is course throughout. But despite harrowing subject matter, there are genuinely touching and hilarious moments, all handled with equal confidence.

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