Dark Vanilla Jungle
If any review suggests that a play is simultaneously compelling and repulsive, it is a good bet that the writer is Philip Ridley.
This 75-minute solo is a tour-de-force by Gemma Whelan who plays Andrea, the kind of girl that makes the news in court cases about child abuse by gangs of unscrupulous men.
In fact, Dark Vanilla Jungle can sound a little too much like two pieces put together. First, we get the tale of Andrea and Tyrone, a handsome man who promises the 15-year-old the earth but turns out to be a married pimp.
This adds to the woes of a girl deserted by her slutty mother and jailbird dad. Pregnancy is an inevitable consequence, though a brick and worse through stern granny’s window is almost harder to take.
It is all horribly convincing and should open the eyes of the world to such abuse, which is related in too much detail for those with weaker stomachs.
The second half of the monologue starts as Andrea adopts a maimed, vegetative ex-soldier whom she stumbles across in hospital.
Somehow, she worms her way into the family, entertaining her own far-fatched fantasies for a considerable time before the inevitable happens.
Dark Vanilla Jungle makes for tough watching but thanks to Gemma Whelan, who could win awards, and her director David Mercatali, it is far more watchable that some of Ridley’s more sensational horrorfests.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher