Canal Street Online Manchester

Vincent River Q and A

Vincent River Q and A

Philip Ridleyʼs play Vincent River explores hate crime and homophobia. Relocated to Manchester, the play opens at the Hope Mill Theatre later this month. We chatted to actors Dominic Holmes and Joyce Branagh to find out more about the play, the issues it puts under the spotlight and what audiences can expect.

What attracted you to Vincent River?

Dominic Holmes: As soon as I saw it was a Philip Ridley play I jumped at the chance. I'm a fan of his writing but Vincent River wasn't one I was as familiar with. After reading I called my agent straight away and said I HAVE to do this. I was blown away.

Joyce Branagh: It's a fantastic piece of writing - that's the main thing. Philip Ridley somehow manages to write two great characters (well, three really), and crafts a story that is realistic and natural, but which also has poetry running through it - without that feeling flowery.  It's gritty, hard and emotional - a great combination. 

Can you tell us a bit about the character you play?

DH: I play Davey. A young & troubled lad who's seen something he can't forget. 

JB: Anita is a tough cookie.  She's one of those brilliant Manchester matriarchs - above all else she's a mum.  Her child is all she cares about and she won't take any shit.  But...  she's been through a lot, and is kind of a mess inside, and that uncovering of her vulnerability is hopefully what we get drawn into. 

As it explores homophobia, what would you say to people who may say 'things have improved, this is not an issue anymore.' And what is the play's take on this?

DH: I'd tell them to have a look at the statistics on homophobic hate crime from the past year and get back to me. The play censors nothing. It tells it how it is.

JB: Well unfortunately it IS still an issue.  I love football, but the fact that there are no 'out' professional footballers shows how homophobic Britain still is - how big a decision that would be for a gay player to come out? And it's not just in sport.  Homophobic attacks seem to be on the rise... I also know gay people who are out socially but they still can't tell their parents...  

I think in the play it becomes clear that Anita is very uncomfortable with her son being gay - despite loving him completely, and I think that's unfortunately a realistic reaction for some families, even now. 

The Hope Mill is a great venue to perform in, as you are incredibly close to the audience. Does this aid your performance? 

DH: Definitely. It allows for the subtler moments to come through which I feel you might lose in a vast space. The audience is there with the character during every beat & breath. Like a fly on the wall. 

JB: I think it'll help the audience feel like they are in the room with us - inside a small claustrophobic flat, up close - and, in turn, we'll feel the audience reactions - up close.  That will be very exciting for us as performers, I think, (if not a little terrifying.). I hope everyone will be completely sucked into this world for an hour and a half. Then have a long. chat about it in the bar after. 

Can you give us three reasons why someone should see Vincent River?

DH: It's a brand new, never seen before version written by a living LEGEND. It's important, and you'll leave the theatre, as a different person to when you walked in. 

JB: It has a gripping story, it will draw you in completely and it packs a huge punch. 

Vincent River runs at the Hope Mill Theatre from 27 February – 24 March and tickets can be booked via the link below.

By Glenn Meads for Canal St Online.

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