Review: Harry Melling channels Beckett and Ridley in peddling, Arcola
Review: Rules for Living, National Theatre

Review: The devilish Radiant Vermin, Soho Theatre

L-R Gemma Whelan, Amanda Daniels and Sean Michael Verey in Radiant Vermin, Soho Theatre

The sound track of pre-show songs like Opportunities by the Pet Shop Boys, Material Girl by Madonna and Money by Pink Floyd set the tone for Philip Ridley's new play at the Soho Theatre. This is toe-tapping wrapping paper disguising a gift that has darker undertones.

Young couple Jill (Gemma Whelan) and Ollie (Sean Michael Verey) live on the notorious Red Ocean Estate but one day are offered a new home by Mrs D (Amanda Daniels), they just have to renovate it. Sounds easy except that this is a programme of regeneration that has, in true Ridley-style, a macabre element.

Jill and Ollie are a chirpy, ordinary couple. They've just held a disastrous first birthday party for their son Benjy and tell us their story starting back at the day of the offer. It is story laced with fairy-lights, magic, murder and a Selfridges kitchen. A story in which Jill and Ollie try to convince that they have done nothing wrong.

It isn't as subtle as some of Ridley's other works - 'Mrs D' and the 66.6 seconds Jill and Ollie have to complete certain tasks - but Ridley has cranked up the comedy. Much of the humour comes from how an ordinary couple cope with such an extraordinary situation; how corrupted they become by material gain.

Ridley's moral message is clear and there is no hiding behind the fourth wall for the audience either. At one point we are asked to vote on a dilemma Jill and Ollie face. It is a ridiculous dilemma but a potent one.

Performed on a white stage with very few props Whelan and Verey are brilliantly frothy and masters of comic performance. The birthday party is a performance feat, involving machine gun-swift switches between an array of characters. It is barely contained chaos with a hint of nervous breakdown. It will be filed under 'mesmerising theatre moments' alongside the canvas painting scene in Red from a few years ago. Amanda Daniels, in contrast, is disturbingly charming as Mrs D. 

Radiant Vermin is a potent and ridiculous tale that doesn't so much question materialism and consumerism as say 'come on people, really'? You'll laugh and you'll feel a little bit guilty afterwards. Love Ridley and loved this.

It is 90 minutes straight through and you can catch it at the Soho Theatre until Sunday April 12.


Always easy with a Philip Ridley play as Mr W was in Leaves of Glass, also at the Soho Theatre, back in 2007