★★★★★ | Dark Vanilla Jungle, Soho Theatre

Andrea keeps getting asked if she’s ashamed.
Ashamed of what she did to the soldier.
Of what she did to the baby.
But Andrea’s not ashamed at all.
And she wants to tell you why…

Dark Vanilla Jungle is a powerhouse of a play by award-winning playwright Philip Ridley and stars the amazing Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones, One Man Two Guvnors).

Andrea enters onto a bare stage and starts to interact with the audience telling them her story. Initially nervous and shy, she presents her tale with a naïve charm and gaucheness that is achingly funny but mildly alarming. As Andrea’s story progresses there are hints of what’s to come and her nervous shyness turns to an increasingly frenetic and angst-ridden tirade that is breath taking, heart breaking and lyrical. Ridley’s use of language and ability to tell a multi-layered story is pure genius, much like his previous works “Tender Napalm” and “The Fastest Clock in the Universe”. Ridley is a writer at his peak.

It’s rare that theatre is this affecting and cathartic with the audience taken on a compelling roller-coaster journey that left them bemused, amused, horrified, shaken and perturbed. Viewing this play isn’t a light experience but nor is it one that feels turgid or heavy-handed, instead being fast paced and thrilling. Although dark themes lie at the heart of the play, there’s an uplifting quality to the frenetic pace too and Andrea’s horrific experiences become something that you accept and forgive, understanding just why she isn’t at all ashamed about what she did.

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A huge credit for the power of the piece lies with actress Gemma Whelan who gives a staggering performance that is a sight to behold. The audience are left wondering quite how one actress can give so much and feel exhausted for her.

The Soho Theatre has proven once again that it is right at the heart of innovative new theatre after a string of recent hits. This is an absolutely brilliant experience not to be missed.
Dark Vanilla Jungle is on at Soho Theatre until the 13th of April

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Book tickets here: http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/dark-vanilla-jungle-2014/

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.