Dark Vanilla Jungle – reviews of 'riveting' new stage show
Game of Thrones's Gemma Whelan 'brilliantly harrowing' as teenage sex slave, say critics
What you need to know Philip Ridley's Dark Vanilla Jungle featuring Game of Thrones' Gemma Whelan has transferred to the Soho Theatre, London. Whelan, best known as Yara Greyjoy in the fantasy TV series, gives an "extraordinary performance" in Ridley's 75-minute monologue, which first appeared as a sell-out Edinburgh Fringe Festival show last year.
She plays Andrea, a lonely, desperate teenage girl, abandoned by her parents, groomed as a sex slave by a gangland pimp and pushed to do the unthinkable. David Mercatali directs. Runs until 13 April.
What the critics like
Gemma Whelan is "brilliantly harrowing as she performs this stomach-churning monologue", says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. Whelan's vertigo-inducing performance captures the brutality and urgency of this work from the master of lyrical unpleasantness, Philip Ridley.
Ridley takes us into the dark crevasses of experience and "Whelan is amazing as a little girl lost", says Aleks Sierz on the Arts Desk. This compelling piece of drama feels real and dangerous, and with Ridley in the tank, and Whelan at the wheel, it's an unforgettable ride.
What makes the story so riveting – as well as deeply depressing – is "the extraordinary performance of Whelan", says Paul Taylor in The Independent. She plays the audience like an incantatory harpy, pleading for attention and unravelling her story without drawing breath or dropping a syllable.
What they don't like
"Ridley tends to explore the darker reaches of the human psyche - but /Dark Vanilla Jungle/ is grim even by his own standards," says Laura Barnett in the Daily Telegraph. And while Whelan gives a tremendous performance, Ridley undermines the emotional impact by piling misery upon misery until it becomes unconvincing.