Most of the evening’s vociferous approbation belonged to newcomer Colin Morgan whose stamina-demanding performance (he appears in almost every scene, often in only a pair of hideously ill-fitting briefs) is comfortably inflated alongside those of his foul-mouthed co-stars who frame this cruelly black comic tale of gross exploitation, mass-murder and media misrepresentation most brazen.
When 15-year-old Vernon (Morgan) becomes an unwitting accessory to his friend’s slaughter of 16 classmates he finds himself on the run, first cerebrally through “impassive” observation of his bumbling accusers, nutty neighbours and tactless mother, then literally hot-footing it across the Texas/Mexico border where he allies himself with a pair of tequila-drenched locals and their hefty mistress.
Tanya Ronder’s stage adaptation of DBC Pierre’s award-winning novel provides plenty of opportunity for crude visual gags and technicolour song-and-dance routines but dashes any hope of emotional weight. While act one fails to find footing, act two goes some way toward establishing what the play (and presumably the novel) is attempting to be by providing its brassy characters fleeting moments to suspend disbelief.
Director Rufus Norris’ hard-working ensemble is perfectly balanced in its grotesque portrayal of America’s most farcical as viewed through the embellishing eyes of our unsurprisingly bewildered teenage protagonist. He lets his cast run riot with those who inflict themselves on Vernon’s cartoonish world: a sexually forward admirer, a lover of amputee porn, an Andy Warhol look-alike fond of fisting, and an incomprehensible foreign lawyer who provides easy fodder for broken language gags.
America’s propensity to brand outsiders guilty without trial and shoot-first-ask-questions-later is ominously present within Vernon God Little’s drollery, which will amuse some and be seen by others as no more than an overwrought circus of caricatures in bad wigs.
- Malcolm Rock