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Radiant Vermin by Philip Ridley at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Radiant Vermin by Philip Ridley
Radiant Vermin by Philip Ridley

Getting on the housing ladder these days is no easy task. There are lots of schemes to help but in order to get that first rung on the ladder, many couples have to compromise their wishes to get something. One plan is to buy a property that needs renovating. The idea being, get it cheap, spend a couple of years with the old DIY manual then sell it on for a fortune. This is great plan unless you are someone like me who is to DIY what Liberace was to subtlety, in which case you might need a helping hand and in Philip Ridley’s Radiant Vermin at the Brockley Jack, that help comes in the strangest way possible.

Ollie (Matthew John Wright) and Jill (Laura Janes) have both good news and a problem. The good news is that they are expecting their first child. The problem is that they are living in a poky flat on an exceptionally bad estate – where drug dealing and suicide (even in the same family) are the norm – and there seems little chance of them getting out. Then out of the blue, they receive a letter inviting them to meet a government official, Miss Dee (Emma Sweeney) in a run-down part of town, where they will be given a home of their own. Ollie is sceptical but Jill persuades him to go along with the letter and the two set out. This meeting changes Jill and Ollie’s lives completely and introduces the couple to a completely new concept of DIY and what it takes to get their dream home.

The first thing you notice when entering the auditorium is nothing. A lot of nothing in fact. There is no set just a blank wall at the back of the performing space. This gives Director Dan Armour lots of space for Ollie and Jill to move around in and creates a perfect area for the audience to let their imagination run riot as the couple move around their house and neighbourhood. Without giving too much away, Radiant Vermin is the darkest of dark comedies and Ollie and Jill should really not be likeable in any way. But they are. They are a lovely young couple just trying to do their best for their baby. Matthew and Laura bring them both to life beautifully as they tell the audience about their lives and the things they have done. There is a nice chemistry between the two and both are amazingly versatile and talented – something which really shows up during the garden party scene – with a wide range of facial and body expressions to accentuate what they are going through and really paint a picture for the audience. Emma Sweeney as the cool, poised perfectly turned out – costume by Pauline Armour – Miss De is the total opposite of OJ (as we will call Ollie and Jill). Whilst they have insecurities and concerns, Miss Dee knows all. While Jill gets Ollie to do what she wants by blackmail, Miss Dee manipulates the situation to achieve her ends. Emma brings out just the right amount of all-powerful menace in Miss Dee – Think Missy from Dr Who and you’ll know where this performance is going. I’m not going to say too much but the second time we see Emma, as Kay, is quite a revelation.

Running at around 95 minutes Radiant Vermin is a really funny and thought-provoking one-act play. The action is fast and furious and the story belts along at a fine old pace holding the audience’s attention from start to finish. Radiant Vermin is a very funny, very poignant play that tackles a whole range of issues covering most, if not all the seven deadly sins and then throws some good old fashioned fire and brimstone into the mix. Brilliantly observed and written and expertly played, the show forces the audience to question the basics of what is right and what is wrong. At one point we were asked to think to ourselves how we would act given the same set of circumstances as Jill and Ollie. Whilst it would be easy, and very politically correct, to answer one way I can’t help but wonder how many of the people sat watching would secretly have gone along for the ride. After all, it’s only a little bit of renovation, isn’t it?

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Jill is expecting her first baby and she and her husband Ollie are desperate to find a home of their own for their new family… But HOW??

In this diabolically funny, vicious dark comedy a government department has found an ingenious solution to the twin dilemmas of housing shortage and homelessness. Be prepared to be appalled at yourself for laughing out loud at the horrors revealed in this wickedly funny play.

Home ownership is slipping out of reach: no matter how hard they work, it’s becoming more and more difficult for young people to buy a home of their own. Levels of homelessness are rising: more than 2,000 people a year will have no roof over their head and end up sleeping rough.

At a time of crisis in the housing market, how far would you be prepared to compromise your principals to secure a home for you and your family?

The Creative Team
Playwright | Philip Ridley
Directed and Designed by | Dan Armour
Video Design | Dave Jones
Costume Design | Pauline Armour and the company
Producer | First Knight Theatre

The Cast
Laura Janes, Matthew John Wright, Emma Sweeney

Radiant Vermin
Listings Information
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
Tuesday 20 November to Saturday 1 December 2018 at 7.30pm.


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