Thursday, 25 September 2014

Theatre review: The Love & Devotion of Ridley Smith

A couple of years ago there was an unsurprising glut of plays about evil bankers; Miran Hadzic's full-length debut looks at one who'd rather not be so evil any more. The Love & Devotion of Ridley Smith follows the eponymous investment banker (Tom Machell) as, encouraged by his boss, he goes ahead with the sale of some stock he knows is toxic, to a man he knows can ill afford to take the fall. The sale is a triumph for Ridley and his company but the man he offloaded it onto kills himself when the truth comes out. His boss Janet (Terry Diab) breaks this news as if it's a minor detail, but it crushes Ridley. Having befriended a possibly-homeless street artist, with a steady supply of sayings about possessions being meaningless, Ridley quits his job and asks Freddie (Stewart Lockwood) to take him out into the countryside and teach him how to be an artist.

He also convinces Sylvie, (Lottie Vallies,) a table dancer he thinks he's got some kind of connection with, to join them, but his dream of being her knight in shining armour is as unlikely to come true as the one about leaving the city curing him of his guilt.

The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith starts promisingly enough; there's nothing new about the set-up of a work-hard-play-hard environment of cut-throat financial deals and extravagant celebrations, but there's the promise of an intriguing turn of events as Ridley's conscience starts to gnaw at him. His unlikely friendship with the scruffy Freddie seems to be leading to a surreal adventure in the countryside, but after a five-minute interval, Katharine Armitage's production starts to drop the ball.

Part of this is down to how the story plays out: As Ridley turns up in a barn in his fucking red trousers it's clear he's not left his old self that far behind; and he immediately unravels when his change of life fails to instantly make everything better. The trouble with stories about an anticlimax is it's hard for the play itself not to feel anticlimactic, and the show's very short break seems to kill all its energy for the second act - even Lockwood's charm, which lifts much of the first half, seems to have deserted him. There's a crowd-pleasing appearance by a very tiny uncredited performer, but a revelation about Freddie's real identity is fudged, needing to be explained twice for its significance to become apparent. It's disappointing as the play seems to be permanently on the verge of coming to life, without ever quite getting there.

The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith by Miran Hadzic is booking until the 11th of October at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes including a mini-interval.

No comments:

Post a Comment