Philip Ridley is a bit of a favourite of mine but I've come to him relatively recently so I'm catching up with his earlier work. And I must say that the Old Red Lion Theatre's production of Mercury Fur is one of my favourites so far. It feels like Ridley stripped back to the core compared to his more recent work, the bare, classic elements that have put him on my fav list.
Like everything else I've seen in his repertoire, Mercury Fur is not an easy watch. I can't really say I loved the play because love is completely the wrong word. You can't however ignore its lasting, haunting impression.
Set in familiar Ridley territory - a post war/post societal breakdown future, Elliot (Ciaran Owens) and his brother Darren (Frank C Keogh) are organising a party for Spinx (Ben Dilloway) which you discover, as the story unfolds, has a barbaric party piece.
Ridley's genius here is in the suggestion. What is implied, what isn't seen, leaving your imagination to run wild. Mercury Fur is about survival at its most macabre and horrific; of a society desensitised to violence so that the younger generation who've known no different recount stories of murder, torture and rape like they are fairy tales. A generation for whom the ice cream van's tune signals the imminent sale of drugs, shaped liked butterflies with different wing colours offering a menu of effects.
In the bleak, destructive world of Elliot, Darren and Spinx human kindness and compassion take on a different, alien form but it is there nonetheless and together with brief moments of tenderness offer up a perverse sort of hope for mankind.
The performances can't be faulted and I was particularly taken with Olly Alexander as the delicate and damaged Naz (pictured right), a character whose back story and fate I found the most affecting and haunting. With his sprite-like physique and wide-eyes I couldn't help thinking of him as some sort of tragic post apocalyptic Ariel.
I'd put all the cast on the 'ones to watch' list and I'm definitely keen to see what Greenhouse do next.
Mercury Fur runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until April 14. I'm giving it five stars, go and see it.
In the vein of small world/coincidences etc little Olly Alexander was in Bright Star playing Keats' brother Tom while Mr W was in the original production of Mercury Fur and played Elliot.
And I can also add Philip Ridley himself who aside from writing the play is credited for his 'help, support and advice' in the programme. His connection with Mr W, as regular followers of this little game of mine will know, also extends to them having worked on Leaves of Glass together.
It is a fervent dream of mine to see them reunited for a future production of some new work of Ridley's, a dream that is second only to seeing him play Iago at the moment. Or maybe equal. Quite frankly I'd be happy to see him stand up and read the phone book it's been so long since he trod the boards.