“The boy with tricks…”
New venue The Bunker has been rather canny with the programming for its opening season – opting for a couple of Edinburgh hits to ease their way into the public consciousness before giving new British musical Muted its debut. Skin A Cat opened eyes as they opened their doors last month and now it is the turn of Philip Ridley’s similarly arresting Tonight with Donny Stixx.
The inimitable characteristics of Ridley’s writing are as complex as Sondheim’s magisterial musical theatre and equally, they respond to creatives who are well-versed in his ways. So regular Ridley director David Mercatali is at the helm of this monologue, (a kind of sibling to Dark Vanilla Jungle) with Sean Michael Verey performing, following on from their collaboration on Radiant Vermin, which also starred DVJ’s Gemma Whelan.
Tonight with Donny Stixx returns to ideas of troubled adolescence with a colourful confession from its titular character. Tested by varying parental relationships and keen to further his career as a magician despite actually carrying one out as a murderer. Verey’s Donny clearly fancies himself as something of a raconteur but his inability to deal with his rage (terrible rage…) bleeds through harder and more virulently throughout the play.
Structurally it is less complex than previous Ridley works, for which we can all be grateful, he has had a tendency to revel in his obscurity, but Mercatali’s talent is to locate all the colours of humanity no matter how dark the tone. Funny and scary, cheeky and chilling, Verey’s performance is outstanding, especially as he rattles through multiple characters in the blink of an eye. Recommended.