If you’re going to steal, steal from the best

Welcome to That Unforgettable Line, a contemporary play advisory blog!  Some of you may recognize the source of the blog’s title, Winnie’s quote from Beckett’s Happy Days, “What is that unforgettable line?”  The purpose of this blog is to introduce students to playwrights and plays they might not be aware of, and to suggest monologues and scenes that might be appropriate for class work.  Hopefully, you’ll come across an unforgettable line that will make you want to explore the play further.  Each post will include information about the play, snippets of representative monologues and scenes, and links to reviews and critical resources.  My goal is to post information on 50, that’s right, 50 plays this summer, and add to the list weekly once the academic year begins.

Mercury Fur – Philip Ridley

First produced at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth, England, February 10, 2005; transferred to the Menier Chocolate Factory, London, on March 2, 2005.

Original Cast:

Elliot (19 year-old man with a bad knee)                 Ben Whishaw
Darren (16 year-old boy; a little slow)                      Robert Boulter
Naz (young looking 15 year-old boy)                        Shan Zaza
Party Piece (10 year-old boy)                                  Neet Mohan                                                                                     (Plymouth)
Party Piece (10 year-old boy)                                  Prem and Previ Gami (London)
Lola (19 year-old boy who lives as a girl)                Harry Kent
Spinx (21 year-old man)                                          Fraser Ayres
Duchess (38 years-old woman and blind)              Sophia Stanton
Party Guest (23 year-old man)                               Dominic Hall

Director:  John Tiffany
Designer:  Laura Hopkins
Lighting:  Natasha Chivers
Original Music and Sound:  Nick Powell
Fight Director:  Terry King


Publicatio
n:  in Ridley, Phillip. Plays, v. 2. Methuan Drama. 1997. p.71-202.  Drama Library, PR6068. I292 A6 1997 v.2
ridley


Setting: 
A derelict flat in a derelict council estate in the East End of London, after a biological plague has devastated England; a future gone horribly awry

Language:  Poetic but profane

ELLIOT

You’ve been acting like a kitten after a twirl in the microwave all afternoon and this microwave feline behaviour is eating up time faster than a peckish piranha on a freshly aborted foetus. Do I make myself cunting clear?

Genre/Style:  Serio-comedic and very, very dark in the vein of Martin McDonagh’s work.  If you like The Lieutenant of Inishmaan or A Behanding in Spokane, or Blasted by Sarah Kane, you’ll like this play–I love all of those (plus Pillowman) and I love this play.  Warning:  graphic violence and disturbing imagery; Farber and Farber refused to publish it when it was first produced, if that gives you any indication of its effect.

Plot:  Two brothers, Elliot and Darren, are getting ready to put on a party for a mysterious guest.


Representative Monologues:  
(Monologues contain the first few lines and the last few lines; please consult the published text for the monologue in its entirety.)

p.86-87:  Elliot talks about murdering his younger brother, Darren, in a bathtub full of acid, because he’s annoyed by Darren who has eaten a butterfly (which acts like a drug) and is dragging him down as they prepare for a ‘party’. 

ELLIOTT

Know what I’m gonna do? One night, I’m gonna fill the fucking bath with sulphuric acid. I’m gonna say, ‘Fuck me, you’re a bit whiffy tonight, brov. Why don’t you give ya bollocks a good soak.’ And you’ll jump in the tub and—oh, ya might think ‘Ooo, this is a bit hot,’  but, like the bloody remedial shit for brains you are, you’ll happily lay back for a soapy wank or something. [Lines deleted] You’ll cause the poor cunt so much fucking grief it’ll deliberately beach itself. Do-gooders’ll come rushing down to save it and the whale will say, ‘Fuck off! I’m better off dead! I’ve got Darren inside me like a million miles of Paki afterbirth!’ Jesus!

p.88:  Darren reminisces about watching The Sound of Music with his Mom and Dad and Elliott and eating pizza in the days before the disaster.  Elliot’s line can be deleted.

DARREN

Know what I liked the best? Watching telly late at night. That musical Mum and Dad liked.  The mountains and all those kids going, ‘Do, re, mi.’ Running up and down mountains and going, ‘Do, re, mi.’ Remember that, Ell?  [Lines deleted] Dad made sure each part had the same number of sausage bits so we wouldn’t argue. That’s right, ain’t it, Ell?

[ELLIOT

Yeah, that’s right.]

DARREN

We’d eat it with our hands. Really greasy. Mum would say, ‘Don’t wipe your hands on the sofa.’ Mum gave us a tea towel each. I loved the way the whole room was lit by just the light of the telly. [Lines deleted] And Mum on this side and Dad on that and—Where’re you, Ell?

p.109:  Naz recounts how his mom and little sister were killed in a supermarket by a gang with machetes.

NAZ

Yeah! Mum grabs me by the hair. Mum pulls Stace by the hand. We try to get out through the back of the supermarket. But some of the gang are already there. We rung back down the aisles. I slip in something. It’s red. Blood. There’s blood pouring from under the shelves. I look through the packets of cornflakes. I see a machete goin’ up and down. And someone’s hand goin’ up and down. Then no hand. Then no machete. But more blood. [Lines deleted] They all drink Coke. They fuck Stace and they drink Coke. I think Stace must be dead now. She ain’t moving. I get right to the back of the shelf. I stay there for ages.

Slight pause.

Is the ice-cream van and stuff yours?


Representative Scenes:

p.88-91:  Darren and Elliot pretend to be an outlaw in a shootout with a lawman. Starts with

DARREN

Bang!

Slight pause.

Bang!

and ends with

DARREN

I love you so much I could burst into flames.

p.96-98:  Naz appears and he and Darren get to know each other. Starts with

NAZ

Wotchya.

and ends with

NAZ

Cut me neck right now, me blood’ll spurt right across the room, I reckon.

p.115-117:  Darren tells Naz how he got a dent in his head. Starts with

NAZ

That’s horny.

and ends with

DARREN

I remember…Mum was hurt. She’s been hit with a hammer too. She’s on the floor and she ain’t moving. I drag myself over to her. I put my hand on her chest. I can feel her heart beating. I think, She’s alive. So long as I can feel that heart beating…everything is okay. I’m safe.


Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:
(Note:  article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)

Bassett, K. (2005). Mercury Fur. Theatre Record, 25(5), 281-282. (Review of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Mercury Fur)

Chappell, H. (2005). State of Confusion. New Statesman, 134(4732), 42. (Review of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Mercury Fur)

Gardner, L. (2010). Guardian. Theatre Record, 30(4), 180. (Review of London revival at Picton Place)

Gross, J. (2005). Mercury Fur. Theatre Record, 25(5), 280-281. (Review of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Mercury Fur

Harpin, A. (2011). Intolerable Acts. Performance Research, 16(1), 102-111.

Jette, D.  (2009). Mercury Fur at Imaged Life.  LA Theatre Review. [open access] (Review of LA production at Imaged Life Theater)

Logan, B. (2005). Mercury Fur. Theatre Record, 25(5), 279-280. (Review of London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory)

Lukowski, A. (2010). Time Out London. Theatre Record, 30(4), 180. (Review of London revival at Picton Place)

Malone, R. (2005). Mercury Fur. Stage, (6463), 12. [open access] (Review of original production at the Drum Theater in Plymouth)

Marchese, E. (2007). Mercury Fur Back Stage West, 14(11), 14. (Review of Rude Guerilla Company in Santa Ana, California)

Margolies, D. (2009). Mercury Fur. Back Stage (19305966), 50(24), 23-24. (Review of LA production at Imaged Life Theater)

More on Previous Productions. (2012). Theatre Record, 32(8), 429-430. (Review of London production at Trafalgar Studios)

Ridley, P., & Sierz, A. (2009). ‘Putting a New Lens on the World’: the Art of Theatrical Alchemy. New Theatre Quarterly, 25(2), 109-117. (Interview with Philip Ridley)

Shuttleworth, I. (2005). Prompt Corner. Theatre Record, 25(5), 265-266. (Review of London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory)

Smith, P. (2012, June 7). Mercury Fur, Trafalgar Studios, Review.  Daily Telegraph, p. 30. [open access] (Review of London production at Trafalgar Studios)

Spencer, C. (2005, March 5). A Vicious Kick in the Guts. Daily Telegraph, p. 24. (Review of London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory)

Stuff of Nightmares:  Mercury Fur @ The Ringwald. (2011, April 9). The Ferndale One-Fifteen News. [open access] (Review of Ferndale, Michigan production at The Ringwald)

Tripney, N. (2012). Mercury Fur. Stage, (6829), 18-19. [open access] (Review of production at Old Red Lion in London, England from March 27 to April 14, 2012)

Trueman, M. (2012). Mercury Fur: Time Out London. Theatre Record, 32(7), 346. (Review of London production at the Old Red Lion Theatre)

Sierz, A. (2010). Tribune. Theatre Record, 30(5), 273. (Review of London revival at Picton Place)

Wyllie, A. (2013). Philip Rridley and memory. Studies In Theatre & Performance, 33(1), 65-75.

Additional Information:

James Turner Designs:  Directed by Ned Bennett, Produced by Greenhouse Theatre, Old Red Lion Theatre, March 2012 and Trafalgar Studios, May 2012, Off-West-End Award 2013 winner, Best Set Design (Images of award-winning set design)