Never before have I watched a play that caused so many audience members to express a need to go for a drink. After the curtain call, I heard at least seven or eight people say that they need something strong – which fantastically sums up how convincingly disturbing Mercury Fur was. Philip Ridley’s play, directed by Jonny Danciger, followed the story of two siblings, Darren and Elliot, living in dystopian London, who deal hallucinogenic butterflies and organize “parties”: events at which their guests can bring to life their darkest and most dreadful desires. In this specific party, however, not everything goes according to plan – causing both the siblings and their guests a lot of distress. As new party guests arrive, secrets are revealed about characters and their relationships, the nature of the “parties” is explained, and Darren’s and Elliot’s family bonds begin to break.
The piece must have been a true challenge for the actors, focusing on very difficult topics like torture, pedophilia and drugs. Unsurprisingly though, they all stood up to the task; together they created an unbroken dark, mysterious mood, and caused the audience to not only constantly wonder what will happen next, but also question whether they actually want to find out. Smith and Lynch superbly portrayed the pathological bond between a dominant older brother and a gullible little sister, suffering from severe brain damage due to her drug addiction. I was also captivated by Beth Evans’ portrayal of Naz, the siblings’ neighbour, who despite actively helping to organise the party, provides the audience with a bit of light through her constant positive energy. Generally, it’s a shame that I don’t have the space to praise each cast member separately on their performance, because every single one of them developed a believable, strong character; and suitably for this play, each one made me feel distressed, uncomfortable, or worried at a certain point.
The dystopian atmosphere was further mediated by brilliant technical aspects of the play. The set, consisting mainly of a sofa and piles of trash and the costumes (designed by Georgia Bevan), including some terrifying gas masks, reinforced the poverty of the characters and the surrealistically disturbing nature of the plot. The colourful lighting was a great idea, helping to transport the audience from here and now to flashbacks of the past recalled by the characters; at the same time, however, the lights were dimmed and brightened so many times, that at a certain point I found them distracting and unnecessary, and it would have been nice to see them being abused a bit less. Nonetheless, together with loads of fake blood, the technical team behind Mercury Fur created a truly visceral performance.
Mercury Fur is intense and therefore isn’t for everyone – but if you’re not terrified by the idea of a piece about hallucinogenics and child dismembering, then grab a ticket soon, because they’re selling out quickly! The cast and creative team made it a truly worthwhile watch.