That’s twice in one week Snuff Films have popped up onstage. This time a soldier is decapitated and recorded on a mobile phone and then circulated on the Internet. The deceased’s kid brother is on the hunt for Canal Monsters and UFOs while his mum is hanging out with the local Colin Farrell in the old Car Plant and his dad his having sex with truckers. Welcome to Shivered at the Southwark Playhouse, my third Philip Ridley in as many weeks.
Adults have a more substantial role to play in Shivered – one of Ridley’s more tempered works – when compared with Pitchfork Disney and Mercury Fur. The latter two are set very much in a young person’s world that has been contorted by the wrong doings of grown-ups. They may have a more substantial role here, but it is one in which they represent all that is ugly and messed up in society.
Self-absorbed, apathetic and irritable, The Thick of It’s Olivia Poulet is spot-on as Lyn, mother of the deceased (Alec – played by Robbie Jarvis) and Ryan (authority on Monsters and UFOs), who dreams about younger men to forget the loss of her son’s life and abandonment by husband Mikey – a masterful portrayal by Simon Lenagan. Possibly Shivered’s funniest performance was given by Amanda Daniels as quack-Medium and obese mother of Jack, Evie.
Josh Williams is a little star in the making, born for comedy and centre stage and incredibly funny as Jack, while Joseph Drake is more understated and humble as the shy and geeky Ryan. As the play gains momentum his character and performance become more and more powerful, and in the end there is no doubt that he is the hero.
“Kidult” Gordy is evoked superbly and played with vigour by Andrew Hawsley. Sometimes he veers a teensy bit towards the Mark Rylance end of the self-indulgent spectrum, but for the most part he is mesmerising as the local lothario and seducer of both Lyn and Evie.
Ridley gives us a very rare moment of family idyll, harking back to “the hottest day of the year” when pregnant Lyn, Mikey and little Alec have a family day out climbing Motorway Mound. The change from knotted stomachs, frowns and antagonism to carefree bliss is stark and Poulet, Lenegan and Drake (as little Alec) create the change brilliantly.
This is a cast who thoroughly knew and felt the text. They brought it to life tenderly and intuitively with a naturalness that requires a lot more than the acting talent of each individual.
Thanks to Russell Bolam’s direction, the play’s constant shift in chronology is easy to follow without any spoon-feeding. Quite a departure from the glorious sets of Pitchfork and Mercury, Anthony Lamble’s stage uses the bare minimum of props and dressing. Sound and light – great work from Tom Gibbons and Richard Howell – lead the way for creating the various locales of Draylingstowe, Essex.
The mobile phone is used in plentiful and inventive ways as part of the play’s magnificent flow.
I fear I might have become a little Ridley-obsessed. I’ve done Pitchfork and then Mercury Fur and now Shivered. His plays are so crazy twisted wonderful that how could one not see another if it’s still in town? Through my belligerent fandom, I have got to discover some talented actors and a trio of terrific little theatres: The Arcola, The Old Red Lion and the Southwark Playhouse. Ridley relies on his dexterity with words and wit – Aaron Sorkin, be scared, be very scared – his characters and his wild imagination to bring us the anti-fairytales of our age.
Book tickets today to see Shivered at the Southwark Playhouse. They have a lovely bar, to boot.