A review of Philip Ridley’s THE PITCHFORK DISNEY. Directed by Jamie Lloyd. Performed by Hayley Squires, George Blagden, Tom Rhys Harries and Seun Shote. Shoreditch Town Hall, 02.03.17.
Abandoned twins, sheltering behind the closed doors of drug-induced dreams, have their lives interrupted.
Philip Ridley’s shocking first play formalised his apocalyptic universe of weaponised stories. Across monologues and ensemble plays, Ridley writes like his inner censor has been surgically castrated, unleashing a poetic slurry of words and images.
Jamie Lloyd’s revival of THE PITCHFORK DISNEY is staged in the depths of Shoreditch Town Hall. This immersive basement setting gives the twin’s flat – usually isolated to the point of abstraction – a lived-in reality. Audience members perch in and amongst the perfectly judged production design of found furniture and broken-down white goods.
Performances are excellent. Hayley Squires clearly relishes Ridley’s abundant language, summoning the spirit of her near-namesake’s absent parents with wide-ranging vocals. Sent to medicated sleep for much of the story, her slumbering form becomes an ominous unattended device. As her brother, Presley – who does the shopping and thrives on chocolate – George Blagden ably communicates his character’s conflicts, soothing his sister’s anxieties whilst always yearning for something more.
Their shut-away lives are overturned by one of stage’s most absorbing animals. Cosmo Disney, played with violent beauty by Tom Rhys Harries, is a sequin-jacketed showman, both menacingly homophobic and profoundly seductive. Harries is remarkable, towering with rage before crumbling beyond recognition, shattered by the power of Presley’s stories. Seun Shote makes the play’s final appearance, striding and slobbering in full gimp as Pitchfork Cavalier, Disney’s deranged and damaged sidekick.
Lloyd’s direction doesn’t quite overcome the constraints of the space. We were at the far end of the room by a fiercely slamming door. A few fast entrances and exists aside, the play was always somewhere else. One of the key facets of Ridley’s writing is the dramatically shifting power dynamics between his colourful characters. The dominant dynamic of this space is of characters rushing up and down a corridor. Dramatic moments – such as a blowjob that echoes William Friedkin’s KILLER JOE – are undermined by an audience needing to constantly peer up, down, past, round and through.
Given these limitations, Lloyd’s version of THE PITCHFORK DISNEY occasionally feels like watching the play in rehearsal rather than getting it both barrels. However, there is an undeniable command of Ridley’s amoral universe that will infect your nightmares.
- COST: Tickets from £13 to £28 (availability for some performances 08.03.17)
- WHERE: Shoreditch Town Hall, Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT
- WHEN: Until Saturday 18 March 2017
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- THE PITCHFORK DISNEY plays alongside Philip Ridley’s new monologues, KILLER.
- Shoreditch Town Hall hosts two rehearsed readings of Ridley’s plays. THE FASTEST CLOCK IN THE UNIVERSE (Thursday 16 March) and GHOST FROM A PERFECT PLACE (Thursday 23 March). Directed by Rupert Hands, both readings include Q+A with Philip Ridley and company. Tickets £6.
Featured image: THE PITCHFORK DISNEY/KILLER, Shoreditch Town Hall.