The lengths you can go in the middle of the housing crisis! Ollie and Jill have done some terrible, despicable things to get their dream home: one could say getting a good, functioning house might have to be paid in blood. Now that they have it, they want you to understand why they did what they did. They’re telling you their story, constantly alternating between past and present. They would say for their son: but they are the narrators of the entire story, and, after all, narrators aren’t always trustworthy.
Philip Ridley’s plays are darkly satirical and comically gruesome at the same time, and Radiant Vermin is no exception. The rapid tonal shifts are not jarring when dissonance is part of the theme itself. It makes every reaction feel wrong. The horrible does not feel as it should: in its absurdist context, it’s almost funny. Laughter is always slightly uncomfortable. It’s never too serious, never too light – it brings you in another world, where different rules apply.
This sense of distorted reality is well-transposed in the Something Punchy Productions’ show. Samuel Morley’s lighting is often surrealistic but manages to disappear behind the scene often enough that it is not disturbing. Django Pinter, who is also the director, uses sounds wisely – not too often to be distracting, but enough that they do not seem out of place. They helped in creating and maintaining tension in scenes that would have otherwise appeared quite commonplace.
There are only three actors and each holds up a tremendous amount of characters that are often in scenes at the same time. They change mannerisms and voices so quickly that the fact alone that they did it is impressive. Moreover, they did it well. Imogen Front played the mysterious Miss Dee and the homeless girl Kay, she was particularly disturbing as the former, doing exactly what was intended. She also managed to make some sense of the latter, easily the weakest plot point of Ridley’s script.
Catty Tucker and James Akka as Ollie and Jill were convincing as a married couple – just maybe not as a married couple in love. They had great voice acting and were just a joy to see as they switched between characters. The way they portrayed everyone, even though recurring at stereotypes that were easily recognisable by the audience, they made every character on stage feel quite unique. Their quippy and sarcastic dialogue flowed as naturally as a real conversation with much smarter people than usual would.
In a few moments one is left wondering why Jill and Ollie are even in love with each other. Perhaps lingering on this theme could have more firmly established the complications of their romantic relationship. Although, that said, they manage to make the awkwardness quite charming.
All in all, I would definitely recommend Radiant Vermin. It’s witty and fast, provocative in its theme and dark at the appropriate moments. It’s dizzying and fascinating to watch.