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Park Theatre, London
VINCENT RIVER is the eponymous subject of this harrowing but compelling narrative by Philip Ridley. Directed by Robert Chevara, it's an almost forensic analysis of the circumstances of Vincent River’s death at the hands of a homophobic gang in a disused toilet at a derelict east London train station.
Vincent’s mother Anita (Louise Jameson) has recently been stalked by Davey (Thomas Mahy) and is now confronted by him in her living room. Unaware of the precise circumstances surrounding her son’s death, it transpires that the person who reported his murder was Rachel, Davey’s girlfriend.
As the discourse between the two characters unfolds, it becomes evident that Davey had independently encountered Vincent prior to his death in the local hospital where both Anita and Davey’s mother had been receiving treatment.
Initially denying his true sexuality, it emerges that Davey was attracted to Vincent and had been in an intimate liaison with him at the station immediately before the brutal attack that ended his life.
Reluctant to reveal his homosexuality, he fails to report the incident and in a paroxysm of guilt engineers a situation in which he and Rachel come across the body a day later.
This is a brilliant piece of writing by Ridley, who has structured the encounter between Anita and Davey with subtle, nuanced sexual overtones. The initial awkward and tentative fencing between the two protagonists provides the foreplay for an orgiastic and cathartic climax in which the full explanation for Vincent’s death is revealed.
Jameson and Mahy provide a masterclass in acting. The transitions from suspicion, distrust and obfuscation to uneasy familiarity, through to edgy intimacy and revelatory catharsis, is superbly expressed and interpreted.
This combination of writing, direction and performance is a definite must-see.
Runs until April 14, box office: parktheatre.co.uk
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