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A CurtainUp London Review
Ryan and Jack (Joseph Drake and Josh Williams) are teenagers playing near the disused car factory scaring each other with tales of the supernatural or of alien invasion. Slowly Ridley introduces the extended families, Ryan and Alec’s mother Lyn (Olivia Poulet) and Jack’s mother, a medium and clairvoyant, Evie (Amanda Daniels). At the fairground, Lyn meets and is attracted to showground entertainer, the charismatic Gordy (Andrew Hawley). In the Second Act we will meet Ryan and Alec’s father, Mikey (Simon Lenagan) and hear more about the Japanese owned car plant and a relationship between birth defects in the area and the manufacture of a car with a particular metallic paint. Gordy takes up with Jack and Evie and uses them in his fairground act, increasing business by using the internet to advertise their supposedly curative powers.
There are amazing performances from Josh Williams as the youngster Jack who spends some of the play in a wheelchair unable to speak and from Joseph Drake as Ryan, the awkward and less animated youngster with his fingers congenitally fused together, who brings sketch books and colouring pencils for his friend. In a chillingly memorable scene Ryan’s mother Lyn will deliberately break the point on all Ryan’s pencils as in defiance he continues to sharpen them against the inevitable. Andrew Hawley commands every part of the stage with an electric performance, glittering and menacing. Director Russell Bolam gets Ridley’s disturbing poetic imagery conveyed and the sounds and lighting help define the changes of scene on the bare stage as we go to the fairground or to the open space for star gazing, up on the grassy mound between the Motorways known as Motorway Mound.
There is comment on what passes for entertainment with the contrast of the fairground freak show and the current You Tube video voyeurism of Alec’s torture and execution. While Ryan may have physical deformities, his brother Alec is increasingly unhinged; this is made worse by his experiences in the army as his homophobia draws him towards fundamentalism. As in any Ridley play there is discomfort with painful moments but I liked Shivered for its multiplicity of themes, for its lesson of the dangers of inhumanity, set in fictional Draylingstowe, what was an Essex new town now devoid of its industry.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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