Angry review – six blasts of rage and fantasy from Philip Ridley

Southwark Playhouse, London
Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley star in a swaggering production that seldom deepens into anything meaningful

In the ring … Georgie Henley in Angry by Philip Ridley.
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

There’s so much to be angry about in the world that there’s no need to manufacture rage. But curiously that’s just what Philip Ridley does in the first of these six monologues.

Georgie Henley (Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia, making her stage debut) and Tyrone Huntley (so electrifying as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar) square up to each other on a small, boxing ring-style stage, with chests puffed and anger rising. Then Henley retreats and Huntley turns on the audience. “What are you looking at?” he demands aggressively as if daring us to eyeball him.

It may well be a comment on bystander syndrome, and our failure to intervene, whether in a fight or a humanitarian crisis. But it’s a false contract. Nobody’s going to get up and sock an actor one. And if they did, what does he do? Sock ’em back?

What are you looking at … Tyrone Huntley in Angry by Philip Ridley.

What are you looking at … Tyrone Huntley in Angry by Philip Ridley. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

This limp start characterises Max Lindsay’s minimalist production, which has a stylish swagger that seldom deepens into something more meaningful. These pieces are full of Ridley-esque flights of fantasy. Violence–bombs explode, severed heads skitter across the dance floor, a spaceship is sucked into a black hole and a park becomes a jungle. But these episodes seldom sing or unsettle; two of them are little more than jokes.

They are written as gender-neutral monologues; Henley and Huntley swap roles at each performance. When I attend, both get the chance to shine. Henley is right at home in Bloodshot, as a prim teenager who unexpectedly hears the call of the wild. It’s a piece that has echoes of Angela Carter’s The Tiger’s Bride but none of its complex sexual politics.

In Air, Huntley makes you care for the affable young man whose life flashes before him as he dies trapped under a capsized boat that was overloaded with refugees. That alone should make us angry – and ashamed. But too often these offcuts only posture and never genuinely put us on the spot.

At Southwark Playhouse, London, until 10 March. Box office: 020-7407 0234.

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