Anne-Marie Garett is compelled by the dark, twisted world of Lion Theatre Company’s Mercury Fur.
With Mercury Fur, Director Abbie Priestly perfectly captures the survival of family in a brutal and violent dystopia. She paints Philip Ridley’s nihilistic world with a few bright colours of love, hope and friendship; all is not as bleak as it first seems. Throughout the play, there are several instances where we as an audience feel uncomfortably present in their environment, as we smell the air freshener and the smoke from the cigarettes. It is hard to fully detach yourself from the violence that plays out. With the threat of a global pandemic hanging over our heads, Ridley’s dystopia is not too far removed from the world that we see before us.
Jack Firoozan and Freddie Parsons portray the brotherhood of Darren and Elliot seamlessly and must be praised for creating a truly believable relationship. There are some excellent elements of staging as the brothers enact a cowboy gun showdown, a rare moment of happiness and fun. Elliot remembers ‘the time before’, which makes it so hard for him to cope in this new world, without law and order. Parsons’ depiction of the hardened nature of Elliot against Firoozan’s depiction of Darren’s dependency on him shows the audience how Elliot has had to grow up in order to protect his brother and survive the machete wielding gangs that haunt the streets of London. Although, at times, some elements of the first act seemed to lack pace, it became clear in the second act that this was likely the nature of Ridley’s script.
When we meet Nas, we see how far the strong detachment from the violence in society has gone, as she recounts the traumatic murder of her sister and mother with equanimity. Layla Chowdhury’s portrayal of this new normalisation of violence, with her dazed and easy-going nature, shows the heavy reliance their generation has developed on butterflies to take the pain away and, most importantly, forget.
As I came to sit down for the second act, a sense of dread filled me, as I wondered if I could stomach the horrific violence that was likely to play out. However, the energy and dark humour that evolved around the party captivated me even further. Anna Birakos was remarkable in her portrayal of the Duchess, a fragile broken shell of a woman, destroyed by the brutal attempts of her husband to kill their family. Her presence brought a light and vibrancy to the grim events that would follow. It is here we also see the purpose of these sickening fantasies, for Darren and Elliot this is how they survive, there are no alternative options. For some, the butterflies are not enough to sustain their desires, as the Party Guest (Jude Wegerer) only craves his vile fancy more. Priestly also perfectly captures a new struggle, as Darren is forced to choose between his newfound friendship and his family; the cost of survival is cruel.
Wood-Olivan, Bunyan and Atkins created a highly effective lighting and sound design, and execution, and were vital in heightening the tension throughout the play and adding realism to this strange dystopian world. The harsh sound of the bombs and depiction of the burning world around Elliot and Darren as they embraced, repeating their ‘I love you’ chant was truly a heart-wrenching moment.
This play is not for the faint-hearted and I would truly encourage researching ahead of time, but I honestly cannot recommend it enough and the cast and crew should be congratulated on such a brutal depiction of family and love.
Mercury Fur continues at the Assembly Rooms Theatre on 13th and 14th March.