Writer: Philip Ridley
Director: Chris Darnall
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur explores the very worst in human nature, taking the horrific situation of a war torn country and its inhabitants beyond the extreme and into the surreal, yet never straying too far from the plausible and always mirroring reality in a way that gives this play a dark and twisted edge.
Ridley’s text provides an opportunity to observe from the outside the things people are driven to in desperation. In a world where people turn to hallucinogenic butterflies to escape reality, people begin to crave a real live experience similar to the violent, erotic hallucinations that the butterflies provide. And where there is a demand, there is a supply – but are the organisers of these parties as depraved as the party guests or are they just doing what they need to survive?
This Welsh premiere does its best to shock the audience – and it more than succeeds, with people hiding their eyes, squirming in their seats and letting out audible gasps of fear and disgust. There is blood, violence, profanities and gun shots all right before the eyes of the audience, making this production not for the faint hearted or the easily offended. Most of this is used to great effect, pushing the audience to just the right level of discomfort and maybe just a little further, with the exception of the bad language. Of course there is a place for this here, and Mercury Fur would not be believable without it, but it feels overdone in the opening scenes; needlessly trying to shock the audience when it is nothing in comparison to what lies ahead.
On entering the auditorium we are faced with Elliot (played by Oliver Morgan-Thomas), shiftily searching the performance area by torchlight. Unfortunately, any atmosphere that this pre-show was intended to build is lost due to the show being oversold, leaving the audience wandering around looking for places to sit. However, Morgan-Thomas soon recaptures that atmosphere and tension when the action begins with Elliot’s verbal torrent of abusive bullying towards his brother, Darren (played by Jacob Prytherch). The whole cast work brilliantly together as an ensemble, making their surreal lives and situation wholly believable, and maintaining the tension throughout.
The set, designed by Bethany Seddon, places the audience at either side of the action with the performance area in the middle. This does well to bring the audience right up close to the action in a piece where the fourth wall is very much in place, like a fly on the wall. It’s downside is that the actors nearly always have their back to someone in the audience so on rare occasions some of the tongue twisting, fast paced dialogue is lost.
Disturbing and edgy, Mercury Fur is not going to be to everyone’s taste but this is a very strong presentation of Ridley’s work.
Reviewed on 28th May 2014