Theatre Review | Angry: Philip Ridley hatches a curate’s egg of dreams and disasters
By Ruby Fischer
Charismatic: Tyrone Huntley Photo: Matt Martin
THERE’S an appropriate lack of ceremony as we enter the world of Philip Ridley’s Angry.
Pre-show, its two actors prowl the confines of a sunken square pit as they size each other up, while a galloping drum beat warns us not to get too comfortable.
We are, after all, in the presence of the mind that brought us The Pitchfork Disney, Dark Vanilla Jungle and Mercury Fur so a little horror, a little romance and a little grotesque fantasy are to be expected.
And in the six monologues of Angry, directed by Max Lindsay, we get snapshots of each.
In this two-hander, Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley swap roles on alternate nights and perhaps this has as much to do with fairly allocating the better-written pieces alongside the weaker, but it also works as a way to keep the stories outside the realms of gendered experience.
The duo are thrown into sharp relief on James Donnelly’s stark set — a sleek reflective arena below a grid of fluorescent lights used to stunning effect by designer Cassie Mitchell. Initially, it seems we’re about to witness Million Dollar Baby play out on the Battlestar Galactica but, as Huntley comes out swinging with a rousing “Who you fucking looking at,” one wonders if the action hasn’t peaked too soon.
Huntley spends the initial 10 minutes of the first monologue Angry seething with a frantic vitriol as he spits questions at the audience and shrieks in fury when he’s met with deferential silence. Ridley has written him into a corner and his only recourse is to turn up the volume.
Okay, which follows, is a glimpse into the life of a young woman plagued by thoughts of frustrated indecision. Henley, performing with wit and vigour, is similarly caged by the angst-ridden text.
Bloodshot is a different beast altogether. Huntley, tender, charming and dignified in his too-tight pants, plays a charismatic 18-year-old who longs for the kind of old-world decorum that frowns on boys who laugh in cinemas.
A heart-rending coming-of-age tale with razor-sharp delivery and elegant stagecraft, it’s a reminder of why Ridley has such a reputation. The writing is exquisite, masterfully balancing the delights of adolescent experience with the darker underbellies of burgeoning sexuality.
Henley is droll in Dancing, a macabre sketch about blood on the dance floor and Now is a dreamscape odyssey in which Huntley persists with the question: “What now?” Knowing Ridley, anything.
The concluding Air, a breathless look at humanity in the final throes of life, has Henley as a drowning woman recounting a life of love, loss and brutality that ends at the bottom of the ocean. The grim humour suits her as she “sparkles” in the face of tragedy.
For better or worse, Angry is a fragmented tale of humanity’s fears and dreams made flesh. Expect 90 minutes of star-surfing and shipwrecks and, if you sit in the front row, be sure to take an umbrella.