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Ridley Me This | January at the Abbey

See two plays for the price of one at the Abbey Theatre this month with the Irish premieres of Philip Ridley’s Tonight with Donny Stixx and Dark Vanilla Jungle.

Working in a wide range of artistic media, the English storyteller is perhaps best known for his screenplay for 1990 gangster flick The Krays, based on the lives and crimes of English gangster twins Ronald and Reginald Kray (played by Gary and Martin Kemp). He has also garnered a cult following as a writer-director for his loose trilogy of horror films The Reflecting Skin (1990), The Passion of Darkly Moon (1995) and Heartless (2009) – the first two starring a young Viggo Mortensen.

Cited as a pioneer of in-yer-face theatre – along with Martin McDonagh, Sarah Kane and Tracy Letts – Ridley’s Donny Stixx and Dark Vanilla Jungle are companion pieces, both focusing upon damaged young people (a recurring element in the writer’s work). Ahead of their premieres on January 15, the Abbey Theatre describes them both as “darkly hilarious, searingly honest and painfully poetic.”

Dark Vanilla Jungle is told in monologue as 16-year-old Andrea recounts her story. With a father in prison and a mother who abandoned her at the age of 12, the character falls into the hands of the older Tyrone. She at first thinks she has finally found a home. However, Tyrone has evil intentions.

The play won The Scotsman Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013. The Evening Standard said: “Ridley, as ever a master of lyrical unpleasantness, here creates a picture of innocence corrupted . . . This is lacerating excruciating theatre, which leaves the audience exhausted and speechless,” while the Telegraph added: “No one captures pain, violence and the misery of love gone wrong quite like Philip Ridley.”

Tonight with Donny Stixx is also a one man show centering on the titular character who dreams of being famous and on TV by becoming the greatest magician of all time. However, all he will achieve is infamy for a shocking act.

The play was first seen in preview at the Soho Theatre, London, in 2015. From there, it went on to premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival earning acclaim. The Independent described it as ‘A heart-wrenching blend of tenderness and viciousness’, stating also: “Donny Stixx’s final trick is to cut the viewer in half, split between sympathy and horror.”

From January 15 – 26, Donny Stixx and Dark Vanilla Jungle will be performed back to back each evening on the theatre’s Peacock Stage with Rex Ryan and Katie Honan in the lead roles. Age guidance is 16+ with tickets available from €13. One ticket gets you into both plays.

However, one can see the plays for free on January 15 as part of the Abbey’s Free First Preview scheme. Set up to encourage more to attend the theatre, tickets are only available on the night, limited to one person and issued on a first come, first served basis.

They will be handed out from 6:30pm. However, the Abbey encourages those interested to arrive earlier as queues will form outside the building.

Tonight with Donny Stixx and Dark Vanilla Jungle are the first of the theatre’s recently announced 2019 programme. In the coming months, the Abbey will put on various new productions. This includes The Country Girls, which sees author Edna O’Brien revisit her era-defining debut novel in a stage adaptation. Denounced by the clergy and banned by the State, the coming of age story of two young women in 1950s Ireland became a best-seller.

Other noteworthy plays to grace the Abbey stages in the coming months include docudrama It was easy (in the end), focusing on a company of millennial artists who have moved off the grid to live by a new philosophy; Lee Coffey’s new play In Our Veins, following the Carrick family through 100 years of Dublin, from the notorious madams of the Monto to love in the dark tenements; and Mark Doherty’s Trad, centring on the relationship between an 100-year-old Irishman and his father.

For more details or to purchase tickets, visit here.

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