Philip Ridley's New Play Exposes Our Obsession With Home Ownership

Tom Bolton
By Tom Bolton Last edited 38 months ago
Philip Ridley's New Play Exposes Our Obsession With Home Ownership ★★★★☆ 4

Gemma Whelan and Sean Michael Verey in Radiant Vermin. Image by Anna Soderblom

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

How far would you go to own a house? What sacrifices would you make? What compromises? With home ownership an impossible dream for many, especially in London, the perfect house is the holy grail of consumerism. Playwright Philip Ridley, connoisseur of dark desires, turns our housing obsession into a twisted modern fairytale in his new play, Radiant Vermin.

Young couple Jill and Ollie, desperate to escape the Red Ocean Estate before their baby arrives, receive a visit from a fairy godmother apparently sent by the government. Miss Dee can grant all their wishes — dream home, dream kitchen, dream bathroom, dream garden… All they have to do is help tidy up the neighbourhood, increase property prices, encourage regeneration. Soon, with the help of a priest's outfit and a custom-made cattle prod, they are discovering there really are no limits to what they will do.

Director David Mercatali conjures the fear and loathing behind the suburban dream with a beautifully-choreographed descent into chaos. Ridley's writing, as always, is packed with strange and powerful images. Performing on an empty white lozenge, Gemma Whelan and Sean Michael Verey, as Jill and Ollie, build increasingly complex, funny performances. The climactic scene, in which they play an entire garden party full of people, each with a difference accent, is a tour de force. While the production is exceptional, Radiant Vermin, is more narrative-driven than his previous work and, stripped of ambiguity, the satire is rather predictable. However, when Whelan in particular taps into the manic energy that drove her previous collaboration with Ridley, Dark Vanilla Jungle, the results are nasty, hilarious and very impressive.

Radiant Vermin runs at the Soho Theatre until 12 April (7.15pm Monday-Saturday, 3pm Saturday matinee and 5pm on Sundays). Tickets £17.50 (£15 concessions). Londonist saw the production on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 17 March 2015