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Review | Vincent River | Hope Mill Theatre | 12/10/2022

This Philip Ridley play addresses some of the themes that LGBTQ+ people often face such as hate crimes, loss and prejudice. Having had previous success in London, this play is now having its Manchester premiere by Green Carnation Company, a local company who utilise theatre to tell powerful queer stories. This however isn't a show that is purely for the LGBTQ+ community, it speaks to anyone who has lost.

Tension flooded the Hope Mill from the moment the play began in blackout. Within this uncomfortable darkness we heard faint noises of trains. When the lights finally come back on we are presented our two characters. Surprisingly neither of these people are called Vincent River, why? Vincent River, an East London teenager, has died horrifically a few months earlier.

We find ourselves in Vincent's mothers' home (Anita played by Maddy Myles). She has noticed young Davey (Rory McMenamin) hanging about and following her lately, he has finally been 'invited' in. Davey explains that he and his girlfriend found Vincent’s body, but both the audience and Anita can tell there is more to the story than that. What followed was a 90-minute harrowing and gripping emotional rollercoaster and I was enthralled from beginning to end. We are given both nuggets of information and bombshells from both characters, keeping the audience invested throughout. Dark humour is cleverly intwined with difficult and uncomfortable viewing, which only makes everything seem so real. It was like being a fly on the wall watching the drama unfold.

Myles plays the grieving mother to perfection, relying on alcohol and cigarettes to get her through her heartbreak and grief. It is only since he died that she realised that Vincent was gay. She shows perfectly the struggle some have accepting the sexuality of their children. This is cleverly juxtaposed against Davey's 'gay shame' as Vincent's secret lover. It asks the question if one would exist without the other? McMenamin gives an acting masterclass as Davey. His erratic mood swings make the audience question his defiance about the night he found the body. The last part of the show is where McMenamin really shines, giving a mesmerising monologue that transports the audience to various locations perfectly. I really felt like I was there in the moment.

Vincent River is a hard hitting, must-see show. It isn’t an easy watch, but that is why it is such a gripping and haunting experience. Although it premiered 22 years ago, it hasn't aged a day which is sad when thinking about its themes of hate crimes, acceptance and homophobia. There is something really poignant about Davey only being able to leave the flat once he has fully divulged his truth to Anita. In fact, there is so much to read into that I am already looking forward to seeing this again!

Vincent River is on at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester until Wednesday 19/10/2022. Ticket information below.

Photo: Shay Rowan

Gifted: I was invited by The Green Carnation Company to watch and review this show. All views are my own.


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