Benny Ainsworth
Triptych Theatre
Gilded Balloon Teviot

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It all began with a little death. Vermin chronicles the story of Billy and Rachel, whose quirky and offbeat relationship began with the pair gleefully gawking at an attempted suicide, then went downhill after moving into a rat-infested house together, only to spiral deeper and darker into a well of misery and psychological horror as the play continues.

The play takes the form of a playful dialogue from Benny Ainsworth and Sally Paffett as the love-struck couple, joking, bickering and grandstanding by turns, spinning out this bloody and occasionally sickening yarn. Under Michael Parker’s direction, it’s a cheerful and convivial atmosphere, and the laughs come fast and thick, as does the ever-growing sense of unease.

While the subject is rarely less than dark and the imagery is frequently gruesome, the play does keep itself on the fairer side of lurid glee with a surprising amount of good taste. Or at least, as much as it can when part of the narrative surrounds the violent and sadistic dismemberment of animals. But the horror is never without reason, and Ainsworth’s script is so tightly and deftly plotted that it’s only after the shock has worn off that the myriad brilliant thematic echoes and callbacks become clear.

Vermin manages to get under your skin in a way that will have you itching to be clean again, even though the taint may never go away. It taps into a deeply rooted fear, not only of that which creeps, crawls and scuttles beneath the floor and within the walls, but of that which festers and broods in those closest to us, and within the darkest recesses of broken hearts and fractured minds.

Hats off to Triptych Theatre, as Vermin is a stomach-churning, tear-jerking and laughter-inducing piece of theatre that is truly a brilliant one of a kind.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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