Review: The Pitchfork Disney

By John Nathan, February 9, 2012
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Arcola Theatre, London E8

There has been revisionist talk of late questioning the reputation of the so-called In-Yer-Face movement. It asks whether all those urban, often sexually explicit and violent plays of the 1990s, which so shocked critics and audiences, really amount to a golden era of drama? This revival of Philip Ridley's 1991 debut work – the play that is said to have started the wave and which is neither sexually explicit nor violent but still achieves an almost unbearable sense of threat – should shut up the doubters.

Ridley's vision soars on the fevered, imaginations of his protagonists Presley (Chris New) and Haley (Mariah Gale), twentysomething siblings who live in fear of the brutal world beyond their inner-city front door – a dread they keep at bay with a diet of drugs and nostalgia for their childhoods. But the fears still come, often in the form of nightmares which New and Gale act out with the thrilling pace of a car chase.

The brilliance of the play lies partly in its ability to trigger the imagination into conjuring horrors greater than those depicted. Edward Dick's flawless production is saturated with bleakness made tolerable by pitch-dark humour. If Ayckbourn is interested in our discontented suburban middle classes, then Ridley maps the moral landscape of the city.

Tel: 020 7503 1646

    Last updated: 11:33am, February 9 2012