The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith sounds like a play about romance, but it is in fact, about a different form of love and devotion. As oppose to the love between two people, how about self-love? Or, how about the kind of devotion you place on your work life?
These are the kind of abstract notions audiences are meant to consider when watching Miran Hadzic’s fuzzy play, directed by Katharine Armitage, which is currently showing at the Old Red Lion theatre. Both creatives, Hadzic and Armitage, return to the Old Red Lion Theatre after the success of their 2012 show Feral.
Ridley (Tom Machell) sells shares and is successful at it, but his life is turned upside down by facing the worst outcome of his job that entails bankrupting a man who, not only owns a million-dollar-enterprise but also, commits suicide. His cutthroat boss (Terry Diab) shows no sympathy for the man’s death and shoves a bonus cheque at Ridley who is, completely, over-shadowed with guilt and shame.
By chance, he meets ‘a wanderer’ called Freddy who he mistakes for a tramp, who shows him the ropes in becoming a liberated artist in charge of his own destiny, just like he is. Ridley also drags along a stripper called Sylvia (Lottie Vallis) on his road to escapism.
With only a four-person cast, the play hones in on the suffering of all of the characters. Ridley has a problem with control, and lack of it, which contrasts with Freddy. It is only after the interval do we gain insight into the sinister and darker sides of the characters including their deeper irritations, frustrations, weaknesses and insecurities.
Machell represents a young man who starts from the top and hits rock bottom, but in a smooth and timely fashion, from a theatrical perspective. He manages to show a fairly balanced Ridley who is vulnerable and easily susceptible to the misfortunes of life without necessarily making him appear like a villain.
Stewart Lockwood depicts Freddy as estranged and alienated, yet he shows the marks of a man, also, tainted with a past. He gives the audience a lot of laughs with his hippy and happy-go-lucky lines, which are, perhaps, inappropriate for a corporate office.
Diab does a professional job as Ridley’s boss Janet Sullivan and boasts a powerful career woman who restrains herself from showing signs of a softer woman. Yet, she is also peppered with damnation, which eventually catches up with her. And Vallis, exhibits a, bit of an, Alice in Wonderland character who meet oddballs Ridley and Freddy who help her find out her ultimate plan and is the only one who comes out a winner.
Overall, and admittedly, some of the acting wasn’t convincing. Also, some stage directions and sections of the story needed clarifying. There’s presence of a cute chick that chirps in a box, which adds light to a gloomy-set play. Also, the ending was left hanging in the air too soon. I only wished that, besides the interesting twist, there were an ending I was just a tad, satisfied with.
Review by Mary Nguyen
The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith
Ridley Smith leads a high-powered life of business deals and table-dancers, but when he successfully cons a client to help the company, he begins to ask: what does all this money do?
Determined to start living more with less, Ridley embarks on a journey through countryside and city, following his dream of becoming an artist. With this obsession taking over and his new companions falling by the wayside, Ridley finds himself grappling with more than just a blank canvas…
A modern tale about working, for love or for money.
Cast: Terry Diab, Stewart Lockwood, Tom Machell, Lottie Vallis
Creative and Production Team
Written by Miran Hadzic
Directed by Katharine Armitage
Designed by Georgia de Grey
Lighting by Jacob Corn
Sound by David Webb
Produced by Will Bourdillon
The Old Red Lion Theatre
23rd September – 11th October 2014
Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30pm
Saturday matinee at 2.00pm