‘’Vincent River is dead, the victim of a homophobic hate crime’
With that nugget of information we head into the theatre. The outcome of this headline story is not buried at the back of the paper, but put right out there at the start so we already know the ending. So what now is there to see? As it turns out, a lot. A gruesome, funny, tragic lot.
This Philip Ridley play first appeared in 2000 and was described by Variety at the time as being ‘a minor addition to Britain’s new brutalist genre’ and likely to cause audiences to stifle yawns. That production must have been pretty awful, or more likely the reviewer was having an off night, as this current incarnation under the direction of Andrew Langcake is another story. Put it this way, no one in the audience was yawning.
Vincent’s mother Anita (Susan M Kennedy) and young stranger Davey (Russell Cronin) circle around each other with caution at first after the death of Vincent, but as more gin is swilled, confidences grow riskier and more bold. Davey is initially only a casual witness to the end of Vincent’s life but he is obviously tormented and Anita naturally wants to know why.
Susan M Kennedy as Anita is world-weary but she is curious enough (and still maternal enough) to let her defenses down and let a strange young man in. Kennedy executes the humour in an authentic and off-hand manner that catches you off guard. Russell Cronin as Davey is incredible. His revelations throughout the play are not particularly surprising, in the final scene, however, he delivers with such gut-wrenching emotion that you can’t look away during his hypnotic confession. The very estuary British accents are fantastic, Nick Curnow acted as dialect consultant and the result is impressive.
Between Langcakes’s direction and Kennedy and Cronin’s performances, Vincent River packs an emotionally laden sucker punch that will leave you reeling. The structure and pace of this production are close to perfection: to call this an amateur production would be misleading, I have seen much so-called professional theatre that hasn’t come close to the production value that Vincent River offers.
Vincent River is presented by Throwing Shade Theatre Company and is on at the Factory Theatre (Marrickville) until 5 March, for more details and tickets see: