This revival of Philip Ridley’s 1994 play, directed with clear vision by Russell Bolam, toys with the idea that our memories of the past are imperfect and can also seem more real than the present.
Looking to relive his glorious past, gangster Travis Flood returns to his old stomping ground near Bethnal Green Road. Here he’s drawn to Rio Sparks (Florence Hall, intense but not intimidating enough), the pyromaniac prostitute leader of a pseudo-religious coven of a girl gang, whose past is more entwined with Flood’s than either of them realise.
The first half starts as a humorous journey down memory lane as Flood chats to Rio’s grandma (an enthrallingly bonkers Sheila Reid) about “the heydays”, but as she re-enacts scenes from her worst memories, the mood turns dark and Flood (Michael Feast) is forced to confront his past crimes.
The second half loses pace and gets a bit too wrapped up in the mythology of Rio’s cult of golden mini-skirt-wearing women. There’s plenty of interesting symbolism here and a particularly compelling monologue about a giant golden chimpanzee called “Queen Kong”, but much of it doesn’t lead anywhere.
I would have preferred more focus on Flood’s feelings — fear or remorse, perhaps? Instead he remains angry and unrepentant, making Rio’s gang’s victory over him feel rather hollow.
Until 11 October; box office: 020 7503 1646Reuse content