Tonight with Donny Stixx
The boy who does tricks chases fame
This article is from 2015.
Given playwright Philip Ridley's visual imagination – he is also an artist and a film-maker – his recent scripts have displayed an interest in the minimal possibilities of theatre: no props, no set, a single actor, and a monologue that describes a world in detail, moving towards his inevitable and brutal revelations. Donny Stixx is all the more powerful for its limitations, forcing the audience to experience the story through the protagonist's deluded understanding.
Donny has clearly been a very bad boy: when he finds out that his magic show is not actually his ticket to stardom, he makes a desperate bid for immortality. His apparent autism has prevented him from realising his lack of talent, but rather than being a mere plot point or reason for his final freak-out, Donny's autism is explored by Ridley.
Although he ends up being a fame-hungry murderer, Donny is a sympathetic young man, who has suffered from his mother's suicide and only wants to entertain. Despite occasional twitches and rages, he describes his life and Ridley identifies clear causes for his behaviour.
Much of the cleverness lies in Ridley's ability to resolve the action, and draw together the themes – celebrity culture, the desire to be accepted, alienation and violence – into a coherent vision. Donny's actual crime is left vague for much of the show, but after the climax becomes inevitable, the monologue races through the finale while still exposing Donny's character.
Autism is used as a metaphor: for isolation, alienation, delusion and anguish. But unlike many theatrical explorations of mental illness, Ridley holds the symptoms to the light, and Donny's rampage is less excused than understandable. It is challenging, but fully earns its applause.
Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 31 Aug (not 25), 2:45pm, £7 - £12,