Philip Ridley’s new show has his trademark blend of tenderness and viciousness, bundled into a blistering one-man performance by Sean Michael Verey. As Donny, he greets the audience with cheery, cheesy showbiz patter, a teenager telling us about his magic act – and, ominously, erupting into violent rages: something about a mass shooting…
This is a suspenseful set-up, then, and David Mercatali - a fruitful frequent collaborator with Ridley – painstakingly ratchets up the tension. It’s staged with total simplicity: no props, set, music. Just Ridley’s psychology acute, and often very funny, prose.
Verey’s performance is impressively mercurial: not only leaping into characters he encounters but, more potently, switching between different sides of Donny. A boy we understand to be both traumatised by events in his family life and probably quite far along the autistic spectrum, he is optimistically self-deluded about his magic act. Ridley allows us to read painfully between the lines; it’s cruelly heart-wrenching.
But there’s also that simmering anger you’re waiting to burst through. Verey goes from a hand-twisting, head-down loner you want to wrap your arms around to a spitting, swearing ball of thwarted ambition. Donny Stixx’s final trick is to cut the viewer in half, split between sympathy and horror.
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