Life in the railway vaults by London Bridge has been just dandy for Southwark Playhouse. But after five years, the company has to leave to make way for the developers, first to the Elephant and Castle and then to a new venue in London Bridge in 2018.
The space closes with what's billed as a family show by Philip Ridley, an uneven epic spanning hundreds of years and several countries while boasting a company of over 20. This includes members of the Southwark Playhouse Young Company who swarm energetically onto the stage. Fairytale elements combine with grisly scenes of modern day warfare as Ridley explores man's restless nature and the conflicts that follow so frequently as a result.
When Nelly Harker's Lena is forced to choose between a storyteller and a muscle man to be her husband, she picks the latter. It's the first of many decisions that haunt the play. Their daughter Shylyla cannot speak until her father, Jared, brings back a feather the colour of a blazing sunset. The feather belongs to the Blazerbird, a timid creature who, after his death, becomes an object of worship.
After a promising start, Ridley's fable begins to ramble, the characters to multiply, and interest to wane. Fortunately, there are some terrific performances to enjoy in David Mercatall's smart production, especially Craig Vye as Jared, Deeivya Meir as the idealistic Shylyla, and Adam Venus as Blazerbird, who is all lit up and looks like a Christmas ornament that's escaped from its tree.