The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith

LoveDevotionWhich is more important – morals or money? It sounds like an easy question, but the truth is, sometimes we don’t really get to make that decision. We do what’s best in the circumstances, even though we’re not always convinced.

Ridley Smith (Tom Machell) works in the city – a life of stocks, shares, money… Expensive wine, too much steak and dancing girls in clubs. He has it all, but is he happy? When he meets artist Freddy (Stewart Lockwood), he starts to see things slightly differently and when a client loses everything because of his deal, he runs off to find himself.

The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith by Red:Fest winner Miran Hadzic, looks at how much we value life and money. As Ridley wryly observes “This walk. It’s the only ‘me’ time I get.”

The story develops well, especially the relationships between the characters who are all linked somehow, even Janet (the formidable Terry Diab) and Sylvie (Lottie Vallis). Despite barely talking, Vallis and Lockwood have some lovely chemistry in Act II when he helps her to see her future path and even Diab shows her ‘softer’ side.

Machell is wonderfully believable as Ridley, changing from a sophisticated and driven young man, to a mad Dorian Gray type of character, trying to prove he’s not like Janet, but becoming more and more nasty and frenzied. His relationship with Freddy also changes entirely, leaving the audience with mixed emotions as to whom they prefer.

Lockwood is perfect as Freddy. His characterisation is so convincing that even when he’s just sitting in semi-darkness swirling tobacco on paper, it’s difficult not to focus on him.

The ‘nice’ scene with the chick is cute, but actually lets the play down. It feels a bit contrived and makes Ridley seem almost too disturbed when he talks of crushing the creature.

Yet this is an almost perfect production with strong direction, a simple but effective set that blends the scenes together nicely and a group of actors who have really understood their characters.

The story itself will make you question your own work-life balance and realise that life really is too short to waste in a job you hate!

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 11 October 2014.