It was with some trepidation and a little morbid fear I went along to the Riverbank Theatre on Thursday night to view the Silken Thomas Players production of the much maligned and infamous play by Philip Ridley, Mercury Fur.
The subject of a ten year publishing ban due probably to its violent and depraved content, it would be difficult not to have some biased preconceptions. Set in a derelict east end flat within a post apocalyptic London, the world is at its most disturbing with terror gangs ruling a city ravaged by hallucinogenic butterflies that erode memory and offer visions of severe and unimaginable violence.
The story revolves around “party” organiser brothers Elliott (Conor O’Connell) and Darren (Colin Malone), adopted father figure Spinx (Liam Quinlivan), Lola (Dean Gorry), newly found neighbour Naz (James Murphy), the Duchess (Patricia Henry), the wealthy client (Cornelius Broderick), referred to as the ‘party guest’ and a teenage boy (Martin Barber) known as the ‘party piecet’.
The brothers earn their living, indeed their survival by indulging the super rich their ultimate fantasies under the order of Spinx. In this case the ‘party guest’ wishes to act out and record a Vietnam combat torture scene to the death upon the hapless child, procured from the wastelands of the currently disintegrated and lawless society.
The play is set in the near future but delves deep into the seedy underworld of today’s society and herein perhaps lies Ridley’s point, trying in a more modern atmosphere to portray the shocking violence and cruelty humankind is capable of.
And despite of all of this horror throughout the play, which has some humorous moments, the most striking element is that of family. You start to question yourself on how far you would go to protect the ones you love, any maybe how morals under extreme circumstances go out the window when you are trying to preserve some semblance of belonging.
“I love you so much I could burst into flames” is repeated throughout the play by the brothers, as they hang on to any humanity they have left. Darrren, damaged laterally from overuse of the butterflies (hallucinogenic drugs) has carried physical and mental scars from when some years ago initially his happy family life and society simultaneously broke down. They have to decide how far they are willing to go to save each other, as events don’t go to plan.
Naz the friendly neighbour who shows up from the block of flats unexpectedly bonds with Darren. “Naz is my favourite character as he likeable and carefree, he puts the story together for the audience and answers all the questions they are asking throughout the piece. It is a very clever tool to use and he carries it off beautifully” explained Connor O’Connell.
Naz’s harrowing account to Darren of the incidents that occurred in a supermarket with his mother and little sister is actually based on a similar event that took place in Rwanda and no doubt repeated in all areas of civil conflict to this very day. This was delivered pitch perfect by the actor. Indeed all above mentioned characters could not be faulted for their conviction of the story.
“It’s a hard hitting piece of theatre but the actors bring so much humour, intensity and compassion in an all round outstanding performance” said Dawn Broughan, who went to see the play in Smock Alley, Dublin.
Mercury Fur has been produced around the world and in February 2010 the first major London revival was a huge success.
The play moves onto RTE All Ireland Drama Festival circuit where it will be performed in Rush, Newtownstewart, Kildare, Castleblayney, Ballyduff, Ballyshannon, Newry and Strabane and is not to be missed.