Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Theatre review: Mercury Fur
Elliot (Ciarán Owens) is the "butterfly man," who deals the new drug from his ice cream van but doesn't take it himself. His younger brother Darren (Frank C. Keogh) however is addled by the stuff. At the start of the play we meet the siblings as they break into an already-destroyed flat, to prepare it for a party later in the day. When the Party Piece (Ronak Raj) is introduced, a dazed abducted schoolboy who's been kept in a cupboard for a few days, the picture starts to form of exactly what kind of party this might be.
A downside of the sheer volume of Ridley plays in London at the moment is that the author's favourite recurring memes become very obvious when they crop up again, and you could almost tick off a checklist: As well as the insect-eating there's injured legs, ritual storytelling, and descriptions of both sex and love couched in ultra-violent language. Still, the familiar themes don't ultimately detract from the intensity of the play in Ned Bennett's gory production.
Elliot and Darren form an interesting pair with a believable dynamic, and as the play goes on it gradually populates itself with new characters, all just as well-acted. There's Elliot's girlfriend, the gender-ambiguous Lola (James Fynan,) and her brother Spinx (Ben Dilloway,) the gangster behind these parties. A Sound of Music theme that pervades the play finds its apotheosis in the blind, epileptic Duchess (Katie Scarfe,) and near the end we eventually meet the Party Guest (Henry Lewis,) in many ways part of a very different world than the other characters inhabit. But most memorable, and the beating heart of what might seem on the surface a brutal play, is the frail but always hopeful butterfly addict Naz, Olly Alexander marking himself out again as one to watch.
If some of Ridley's themes are familiar they reach a crescendo of sorts in Mercury Fur, and if it's the playwright's most nightmarish work that makes it even more impressive that another of his trademarks also remains intact, and there's some small sense of redemption to be found in this bleak world. It's not my favourite of the playwright's works, but it's still definitely recommended.
Mercury Fur by Philip Ridley is booking until the 14th of April at the Old Red Lion Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including interval.