Tonight with Donny Stixx

An unassuming teenager, Donny Stixx, tries to keep his calm as he meets fans for a televised Q&A, just like he's always dreamed. But anger always finds a way to surface, and the real answers can't stay hidden. Off the back of his 2013 Fringe-First winning sell-out Dark Vanilla Jungle, Philip Ridley returns, and he has not faltered in quality. This uncompromising monologue delves into the ambitions and insecurities of a young magician looking to make his mark on the world, and should knock the breath right out of you.

The characterisation is colourful, with real depth and distinction, and comes across as some of Ridley's most mature writing yet.

Sean Michael Verey makes a fierce impression as the eponymous character. His faux-familiarity and onstage-ease are continually undermined by the silent audience with which he interacts with, his one-sided conversation becoming more unnerving as his recurring bursts of anger seem to stem from nowhere and direct towards nothing, introverting Donny's rage until he's nothing but schizophrenic. The beautifully old-fashioned simplicity of the staging throughout goes quietly back to basics, scorning music, fancy lighting changes, projections, or set, and leaving us with a jeans-and-t-shirt teenager who finds it harder and harder to seem sane. This is story, pure and simple, without any of the accessories, and is all the stronger because of it.

The way Donny frames the people around him – the mother he adores, his undesirable 'girlfriend', his various birthday-party audiences – expertly weaves the sides to his life into an inevitable tragedy, while offering hilarious observations Donny doesn't get the joke to, even when the stalls around him are cracking up. The characterisation is colourful, with real depth and distinction, and comes across as some of Ridley's most mature writing yet.

All the hallmarks of Ridley's great work are here. His trademark mix of unrepentant gallows humour, explicit aggression, and childlike incomprehension find a perfect home in Donny Stixx, "the boy with tricks". The often bombastic nature of Ridley's storylines is mediated through the mind of a fantasist, and so serves to layer the character instead of warping the world he's in. Sean Michael Verey jumps through the narrative like a broken tape recorder, the cracks showing successively more as he parrots his own phrases back at himself, unable to find self-control, stuttering masterfully into instability. This is one of the sharpest pieces of acting I've seen at the Fringe so far: weighty, emotional, and frighteningly believable. 

Reviews by Henry St Leger

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Performances

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The Blurb

Donny has committed an act that shocked everyone. Tabloids called him The Most Hated Boy Alive. But Donny doesn't want forgiveness. All Donny wants is... his own television show. A new play by internationally acclaimed writer Philip Ridley, the companion piece to his 2013 Fringe First-winning sell-out Dark Vanilla Jungle. Directed by Evening Standard Award nominee David Mercatali, produced by Supporting Wall. Praise for Dark Vanilla Jungle: **** 'Riveting... audacious' (Independent). **** Breathtaking' (FT). **** 'Sears the mind' (Scotsman). ***** 'Fearless... astonishingly good' (Herald). **** 'Astounding' (Time Out).

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