Friday, December 9

Vincent River – Hope Mill Theatre

The dark space between grief and prejudice is at the heart of this play. Indeed, this piece is replete with dimly lit spaces, the dingy, drab, bedraggled places that are falling apart. Those secret areas of the soul where people hide their true lives and loves. Existing in these shadows can be dangerous and also fatal.

Set in the East-End of London this two-hander centres on Anita, whose gay son was murdered, and Davey, the young lad who found her son’s body. She suspects he had something to do with it and they start to talk. As a grief-stricken, angry mother she wants answers. It could be said the start of the play is almost too intense and dramatic as she is full of antagonism from the very first line.

Davey has his own family issues to deal with and as they start to interact the intersection between grief and prejudice starts to play out. Homophobia and violence against gay men is clearly the central theme of the play but other attitudes are brought in to the mix including domestic violence and class. The play though is too well written to be a piece of agit-prop theatre. It never forgets the characters and the drama are much more important than simply making a political point.

Rory McMenamin & Maddy Myles – Photo: Shay Rowan

This makes it all the more powerful as a piece of theatre. This play was written in 2000, before social media and the endless culture wars. According to the programme there were over 25,000 reports of hate crime based on sexual orientation in 2021-22. A 168% increase on five years ago and it is important that plays like this shine a light on this issue.

Maddy Myles as Anita was full of resentment, rage, ire and indignation. It was a heart-breaking passionate performance. Despite her fury there were lighter moments where she resonated with cockney common sense, whilst avoiding the trap of becoming like a character from EastEnders. You felt deeply that the character had lost the only love of her life because of ignorant, blind prejudice.

Rory McMenamin as Davey had his own level of displeasure at the world. He was wonderfully tetchy and irritated, as young people often are, especially when they think they are being lectured by older people. We learn that he had lived through a lot in his short life and the reasons why he shuns safety for the dilapidated and broken-down spaces.

This is a psychological thriller and directors Dan Ellis and Dan Jarvis made sure it rattled along at an almost frantic pace. This made it a gripping and captivating piece of theatre. It grabbed you from the very first minute and did not let go until the end. It ran straight through without an interval, but it was so compelling it didn’t need one.

It was produced by the Green Carnation Company which was set up “to make quality theatre that tells queer stories.” This was definitely quality theatre, and I would recommend it.

The play continues at the Hope Mill Theatre until the 19th October, for more information go to – https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/vincent-river

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 12th October 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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