Trafalgar Studios 2 is a fabulous theatre – a small 100 seat space that can be relied on for interesting, intimate and intriguing theatre.
The venue does not have a stage in the truest sense but makes great use of the small floor space for performances. During a previous visit to see Le Grand Mort, the space was converted into a fully functioning kitchen allowing the play’s star, Julian Clary, to cook a full pasta dinner during the play!
For Vincent River the set is minimal. A sofa, some boxes, a suitcase and several overflowing ashtrays. Anita, grieving the death of her son Vincent, is in the process of moving in to a new flat. She is joined in the lounge by Davey, played by Thomas Mahy, and the action unfolds in real time over 90 minutes.
Davey tells Anita that he found Vincent’s body which is not a piece of information she has been given by the police. Davey claims to be haunted by the image of Vincent’s corpse, unable to unsee the devastation of Vincent’s body and tells Anita that he needs to have details of Vincent’s life in order to shake that image. Anita senses that there is more to the situation and starts to question Davey for more information about himself and his life.
The characters seek to probe each other for answers, making and breaking bargains about what they will and won’t share as the story of Vince’s life and ultimately Davey’s place in it, is revealed.
The play premiered 20 years ago and it appears that only Davey’s part has been tweaked to bring it into present day with Mahy delivering his lines with a strong modern street inflection, while Anita’s back story and her description of how the press reported her son’s murder would suggest the setting as some time ago. The disconnect is quite jarring and takes away from the credibility of the piece.
Both actors provide very strong performances but are let down by some of the writing and direction. Davey arrives on to the stage so over-wrought and at such a high state of emotion that there is nowhere for the character to go except louder and with more f-bombs thrown in.
One piece of interaction between the two characters feels completely wrong. Grief does very strange things to people and it is impossible to completely reject any action that would take place within this dynamic but this particular plot point feels forced and unnecessary, as if needing to shock the audience.
I also found the denouement of the play to be un-credible. It is impossible to detail why without giving away some plot spoilers but it is hard to believe that someone who is so angry and whose grief is so raw and all-consuming would react in the manner Anita does in the closing stages.
This could and should be a gut punching, heart rending play. In the small space, Anita’s grief should envelope the audience and Davey’s devastation puncture us but I did not feel that.
Reviewed by Emma Heath
Photo: Scott Rylander
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