Enthralling and confronting
By Christine Young
Riot! by Thomas Ian Doyle is a brave and bold new play offering a fly-on-the-wall’s peek into 32-year old Jim’s disillusioned existence. Jim (Johnathan Peck) is having an existential crisis whose cause is unknown until near the end of the play. It won’t be revealed in this review but this bombshell is a sudden awakening to Jim’s state of despair. Even so, the revelation doesn’t absolve Jim of responsibility for his trail of chaos.
Peck portrays the disaffected Jim capably with close attention to the character’s physical and mental ups and downs. At the start, Johnathan seemed to have some opening night jitters but soon relaxed and grew more at ease as the play went on. In a small space, such as The Owl and Cat Theatre, the audience can see and hear every detail. This is a challenge to which the cast rises overall. For me, Gareth Trew as Gavin gave the best performance of the night. Riot! is typically naturalistic theatre and Trew understands the nuances of performing in a play depicting gritty realism.
The intimate theatre seats 32 people and the performance takes place on a stage that is around the size of a two-bedroom flat’s loungeroom. Action alternates between Jim’s flat; a café; his ex-partner’s house; and his manager’s office at Burger Palace. Scene and set changes are simple and effective. The play is so captivating that the transition between these locations is not too noticeable. It’s also because the theatre company and director Gabrielle Savrone make good use of the available space with only minor prop changes between scenes.
The other main effect of being in this small space is that the audience is directly sticky-beaking into Jim’s private life. And the sex scenes occur right at the front of the stage. This reviewer was seated in the last row so there was enough distance not to be completely taken aback. If you’re particularly uncomfortable with nudity and sex scenes, this is not the play for you. The sex isn’t out of place or frequent but you need to know what you’re in for. Likewise, you may not like this play if you’re homophobic but maybe that’s all the more reason to see it.
Venue: The Owl and Cat Theatre, 34 Swan St, Richmond
Date: Until 14 June, 2015
Time: Mon-Sat, 7pm and Sat 2pm
WARNING: Contains adult content, nudity, sex scenes and drug references.