Philip Ridley’s 2005 play Mercury Fur is a demanding, intense choice by The Greenhouse Theatre Company for their London Fringe debut, but the themes couldn’t be more prescient. Defined by riots across the capital and buildings on fire, this story is arguably more relevant now than when it was written.
In an obliterated London, savaged by a social apocalypse, two brothers are organising a party for their boss. But this party is less balloons and cake, and more torture and gore. The play opens on a ravaged carcass of a room; a room that's gradually pieced together as the horrifying action unfolds. James Turner’s design is excellent, creating the sense of a world recoiling in chaos. The Old Red Lion Theatre’s claustrophobic setting forces the audience into the room: necks craned forward, huddled in the gloom, we are made to feel complicit in the ruthless, animalistic morality that defines this world.
Director Ned Bennett's production mesmerises and appals; like the characters, we are also addicted to this drug-fuelled nightmare. Unable to look away as the story descends into a sick murderous fantasy.
It's an ensemble piece, but one in which no actor can hide, and to a man the cast are superb. The writer’s rabid barbs are delivered in a frenzied manner, uncorked and unpredictable. The intensity of performance is startling, adding weight to Ridley’s raw lacerations and building a sense that the party could explode at any moment. Particular mention must go to Ciarán Owens’ Elliot and Frank C Keogh’s Darren; the brothers' desperate will to escape their tortured realities drives the plot. Each clings to the other as their last hope of salvation, and we are on their side throughout.
This revival grabs you from the first second and strangles you until its climax. The gross, tumultuous tale builds to a gripping crescendo, and when the lights finally come up, only then can we breath easy. Raw and relevant, Mercury Fur is one of the most affecting pieces of theatre we have seen this year.
Mercury Fur runs at Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, Finsbury, London, EC1 until 14th April. Visit www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/mercury-fur for more information. Tickets are selling well so book soon to avoid disappointment. We saw Mercury Fur at the invitation of Multitude Media.
By Simon Anderson