Tonight With Donny Stixx
4 stars ****
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
IF YOU WANT to see fresh-faced young theatre graduates playing murderous psychopaths with a florid range of physical tics, then the Edinburgh Fringe is the place to come. In this festival increasingly dominated by solo shows, the genre is becoming something of a cliche; and only truly outstanding examples of it – like Philip Ridley’s award-winning 2013 monologue Dark Vanilla Jungle, about an unloved girl driven to madness by sexual abuse and exploitation – emerge from the crowd to stake a claim to real originality.
Like Dark Vanilla Jungle, this latest Ridley monologue is produced by Supporting Wall and directed by David Mercatali; and if it never quite reaches the same dazzling pitch of emotion and insight, it still offers a chilling and persuasive account of the defining crisis in the life of Donny, a teenage boy locked into a strange co-dependent relationship with his monstrously manipulative mother, until her death plunges him into an ever-more neurotic dependence on his dream of a showbusiness career as a celebrity magician.
Sean Michael Verey gives an astonishingly vivid and focussed performance as the increasingly desperate Donny, deaf to voices of reason from his father and his aunt, and utterly impervious to the feelings and responses of others. And if, in the end, this story seems a little too strange and idiosyncratic to carry many wider resonances, it says something, at least, about the idea of fame as a source of meaning and identity for lost souls; and about the grotesque truth that if celebrity is what you seek, then committing a horrific crime may be one way of getting what you wished for, albeit at a terrible price.