Gilded Balloon, Teviot (Balcony) Edinburgh

I can’t pretend that Vermin is a pleasant theatrical experience. On the contrary, this two-hander from Triptych Theatre, directed by Michael Parker, makes for harrowing viewing. But the piece is superbly acted and this twisted tale of a young couple working through the aftermath of grief is undeniably affecting.

Rachel (Sally Paffett) and Billy (Benny Ainsworth, who also wrote the play) are here to tell us their story from their first meeting on a train, which is delayed while a random stranger on the platform commits suicide, through their whirlwind romance and marriage, to their move to the ‘perfect’ flat, which, as it turns out, is infested with rats. A word of warning here – those with a phobia for rodents may not want to watch this play. No actual rats are shown, you understand, but they are talked about in some detail.

Billy has clearly had psychopathic tendencies from an early age, telling us in a disconcertingly affable – even proud – manner about the cruel escapades of his youth. But Rachel is in love and has a child on the way, so she’s prepared to put such minor issues aside.

Later, however, she proves not quite so ready to forgive Billy’s transgressions…

Vermin heads steadily deeper and deeper into disturbing territory, but it’s the naturalistic performances that make this piece fly, with both characters breaking off to bicker, or to dispute the other’s memory of a certain incident – and the play’s climax brings everything sharply into focus.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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