About Piranha Heights

Saturday 22nd November 2014

Piranha Heights. Photo: Oliver King
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It’s hard to describe the sheer excitement of seeing a really good fringe revival. Where do you start? With awareness of your raised heartbeat, the sweat breaking out on your forehead, or the hairs rising on the back of your neck? Or just the lovely joy of seeing a great young cast bring a story vividly to life? All this and more at Max Barton’s terrific and thrilling revival of Philip Ridley’s astonishing and gripping 2008 drama, Piranha Heights. Opening with a domestic scene as two fortysomething brothers discuss what will happen to their dead mother’s flat, the play takes two swerves into wilder territory with the arrival, first, of Lilly and Medic — two brilliantly imagined crazy characters — and then of Garth, who injects an even more extreme energy into the story. Barton’s superb production is intense, intelligent and, at the show’s climax, had me quaking in my seat. Using the limited resources of the small Old Red Lion pub theatre, he nevertheless conveys the stupendous imaginative range of the writing — a mash-up of eclectic cultural references, from Beckett to Pinocchio, from Islam to Elvis, and from Spider Man to beheading videos — that anticipated more recent examples, such as Alistair McDowall’s Pomona and Rory Mullarkey’s The Wolf from the Door by almost a decade. Great show; great experience. Whenever I close my eyes I can see the bright colours of the final scenes and hear the wind howling outside as the universe invades the flat. Magic. And a very auspicious inaugural show by the venue’s new artistic director Stewart Pringle. Hail to all involved!

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