Philip Ridley's new play at the Southwark Playhouse has all the ingredients of his style that I love. There is the beautifully visual language, the stories within the story that often have a fantastical element, the shocking images and events and the humanity.
If I had rated Shivered at the interval I would have given it five stars with all the elements combining to make a classic Ridley colour but sadly after the interval it flags a little.
The play tells the story of two families in a former new town that has seen its core industry and economic driver die out and its lustre and hope dull and decay. Like Tender Napalm, Ridley's last play, the narrative jumps back and forth piecing together and interweaving the two families stories. One is coming to terms with the horrific death of eldest son Alec, a soldier in an unnamed foreign war and the other family is taking advantage of bad situation in a very Ridley-esque way.
And here I think lies the problem. There are some big issues at play here; how the YouTube generation has become desensitised to violence, the manifestation of grief, exploitation of the vulnerable, toxic manufacturing materials, post traumatic stress... Where Tender Napalm was focused very much on grief and the destruction of a relationship, Shivered feels like it is flalling around a little trying to touch on too much.
It makes you laugh, it makes you gasp just a Philip Ridley play should. The language is colourful, rich and ripe just as it should be. It has some wonderful moments and is at times keenly observed just as it should be but put it all together and it doesn't quite gel and therefore doesn't quite satisfy.
Tender Napalm got five stars, Shivered is getting four. It runs in the main house at the Southwark Playhouse until April 14.
I must just mention the cast who all do a great job. Particularly good to see Joseph Drake again after his stint as Vernon Little in the Young Vic revival of Vernon God Little last year. I know he's only small of stature but I would like to see him play an adult next.
Josh Williams is another young actor who shows promise albeit with occasional shades of drama school about his performance. I last saw him in relatively small role in Our Private Life at the Royal Court last year.
And of the grown ups it is good to see Olivia Poulet in a non comedy role.
Bit of a bumper year for Ridley fans like myself. The Arcola is currently home to a production of Pitchfork Disney, Tender Napalm is returning to the Southwark Playhouse and Mercury Fur opens at the Old Red Lion Theatre at the end of the month.
Always easy when Mr Ridley is involved because Mr W has been in two of his plays - Mercury Fur and Leaves of Glass.