Philip Ridley’s The Poltergeist is a vivid monologue, performed well by Joseph Potter
“I’ve woken up with a headache”
From the tiny flat above a dry-cleaners in Ilford which he shares with his boyfriend Chet, Sasha seethes. Once fêted by the art world as a teenage prodigy, he crashed and burned spectacularly and has never really recovered. An invitation to his niece’s birthday party seems like a good opportunity to get out but between his pill-popping, catastrophising and near-boiling resentment towards his family, it is clear we’re in for a bumpy ride.
The Poltergeist sees Philip Ridley maintain his long-standing relationship with the Southwark Playhouse with a customarily intense monologue which proves a gift of a role for Joseph Potter. Sasha is a young man very much in his head, so as Potter rattles wonderfully through all the various roles, there’s the sense that we’re seeing exaggerated versions of these characters as Sasha bristles against the indignity of having to make small talk when he could be exercising his vengeful streak.
Wiebke Green’s direction keeps a firm grip of proceedings, ensuring that no matter how frantic Sasha becomes, the richness of Ridley’s writing always shines through like paint colours on a palette and allowing crucial moments of silence to open up like yawning chasms. For between the doom-mongering and constant offers of lemon drizzle cupcakes, there’s a story of quiet tragedy as we nudge closer to the truth of why his relations with his relations are so dire, questioning if things are always as bad as they might seem. A beautifully human piece of writing from Ridley.