Pros: Performed by a very strong and committed cast.
Cons: An entirely chaotic plot where many things are touched on and nothing is thoroughly explored.
In my opinion, going to the theatre should not be a stressful experience. An enlightening, challenging, thought-provoking experience, yes. But a distressing, “please can I change the channel” experience? Probably not.
Piranha Heights was exactly that – a chaotic, high octane shock-fest that was at times, distressing to watch.
Now, everyone can delve in to a manufactured dark world when there is a point to be made, but it is much tougher to bear when the bad language and disturbing imagery are being used for the sake of it, without ultimately reaching any bottom line.
Playwright Philip Ridley is definitely trying to say something with this high drama script and cultish, gibberish speaking pacifist, dead-beat-dad-trying-to-do-right and homicidal characters, but what he is trying to say is not entirely clear. Perhaps the piece suffers from trying to say too much at once without any one true through line.
The action begins with two brothers, Alan and Terry locking horns over their deceased mother’s council flat, an ugly affair where insults are hurled and dark possibilities (or truths?) of the past are revealed. Terry is adamant that, as the oldest son, the flat is rightfully his – a place where he can run his commune to share with all who need it, such as the psychotic squatters who he just met next door and Alan’s troubled son.
Alan wants to claim the flat for his own to start a new life with his son where he will be a ‘good Dad.’ From there we meet Terry’s room-mate-to-be Lilly, who appears to be playing at being foreign and a mum, her rage-full partner, a medic and later, his match made in heaven, Alan’s creepily other worldly and very damaged son, Garth. Conspiracies are made, alliances change, lives are threatened and, in slow motion (literally) disaster and devastation ensue.
It’s a play that introduces a lot of issues, thoughts and characteristics, like the brutality of Lilly’s supposed family past in the Middle East, which are never connected to the rest of the story. It’s a bit of a jumble and what’s really going in is never really clear.
The symbolism of the special effects, such as the flickering of images on the TV during moments of high intensity, were lost on me, another
symptom of too much at once. The highlight of the evening were the quite incredible and committed performances by Alex Lowe (Alan), Phil Cheadle (Terry), Rebecca Boey (Lilly), Ryan Gerald (Medic) and Jassa Ahluwalia (Garth). The set design by Cécile Trémolières was also thoughtful and interesting.
This is a piece created with a lot of talent but ultimately, an effective story with a greater impact is just not there.
Author: Philip Ridley
Director: Max Barton
Booking Until: 6th December
Booking URL: venue/old-red-lion-theatre- london-tickets/OLDREDLEIH/901? brand=oldredliontheatre
Box Office: 0844 412 4307