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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: RADIANT VERMIN @ DRAYTON ARMS THEATRE

🎭 Radiant Vermin  

📍 Drayton Arms Theatre, 153 Old Brompton Road, London, SW5 0LJ                 

🗓 Tuesday 4th June 2024

⭐️⭐️

DARK SATIRE FALLS SHORT


Radiant Vermin is a satirical Philip Ridley play about the struggles facing young people who want to get on the property ladder nowadays. The protagonists, Jill and Ollie, are a young couple expecting their first baby, but they dislike where they live. They tell us it’s a dingy flat on an estate with high crime rates. So when they’re offered an opportunity to move to their dream home – for free – they take it. The only thing is: the property needs quite a bit of renovation. 


After moving in, the couple soon realise there’s an efficient yet sinister way they can get those renovations done quickly – and to an extremely high standard. Ollie has a scuffle with a homeless person in the kitchen, who ultimately ends up dead. After a minute or so, the body vanishes and what’s left is the swanky new kitchen Jill had her eyes on in Selfridges just a few weeks before. After that, the murders come thick and fast, leaving in their wake a shiny new bathroom, hallway, garage, car, garden and more.


For me, the skill of Kimberley Ellis and Tom Carter, who played Jill and Ollie respectively, shone the most in the scenes when they were plagued with guilt for their actions. At one point, Ellis does a bloodcurdling scream while looking at the audience, and I think it’s the most scared I’ve ever been while at the theatre. And Carter portrays Ollie's decline into becoming overcome with anxiety very well in the play’s climax at the garden party.


For the most part though, the play unfortunately lacked suspense. I felt the use of sound and lighting could have been used more creatively during the murder scenes, for example – to immerse us more in the action and create a literal darkness as well as a thematic one. Plus, any slight fear or dramatic build-up that I felt as an audience member was quickly shut down by a remark by Jill or Ollie justifying their actions. 


It’s not until we’re introduced to Kay, a homeless person who is sacrificed for the baby’s nursery, that we experience a different pace. In this scene Kay, who is played by Stacy Sobieski, builds a connection with Jill and gives a new perspective on the couple’s actions. We’re tricked into thinking this bond will bring an end to the couple’s incessant greed and that her presence will be enough to confront them about their wrongdoing. But it doesn’t. And the murder-after-murder pace resumes as before.


Jill and Ollie talk to us throughout the play, trying to get us on side and to make us understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. But while some of the lines are funny, I struggled to connect with these characters – and I just didn’t find either of them that likeable. Having a connection to at least one person on stage helps me to stay invested in the story, but it was lacking for me here. And I therefore found the interval-less 1 hour 45 minute runtime to be too long. 


On the whole, there were glimmers of goodness throughout the play in terms of the acting, and I did appreciate the commentary on society’s ignorance to the extent of homelessness but overall I felt it left a lot to be desired.


Estelle Luck


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.


My ticket for this performance of Radiant Vermin was gifted by the Drayton Arms Theatre who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.

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