“I’m Donny Stixx, the boy with tricks”. Philip Ridley’s latest one-man play, a companion to 2013’s Dark Vanilla Jungle, sees a volatile young magician (Sean Michael Verey) performing his latest entertainment show. He’s a jack-the-lad, making jokes as he bounces about, dominating the bare, harshly lit stage. That is until the cracks begin to show and no matter how Donny tries to present himself, he can’t escape the story clinging to him. Donny has performed an unspeakable act; he is “The Most Hated Boy Alive” to the tabloids, and everything in his memory leads up to that moment.
Tonight with Donny Stixx examines the layers that define a deeply disturbed man, questioning how a character averse to imperfections could move towards something horrifying. Donny is equally dangerous and fragile. Rather than seeing a vulnerable person about to break, we know he already has. It’s not a solo Punk Rock – we’re told from the beginning that Donny isn’t stable. Instead of waiting for the snap we’re free to focus on the structure of the play. We move through Haven Holidays style light entertainment, through to Donny’s childhood home – then, where? It becomes clear that the role of Donny’s audience that we’re initially assigned by the character might not be entirely accurate. The play is unsettling, constantly reimagining the performance space as Donny changes the boundaries.
Director David Mercatali pushes his leading man to the edge with Tonight with Donny Stixx. You could power the venue with Verey’s energy; he’s at the highest octane all the way through, sweating within minutes. It’s impossible to take your eyes off him as he rattles his way through the script- any other company would struggle to manage 90 minutes, let alone an hour. Verey gives an exquisite performance, controlling his character and the script with pinpoint accuracy. Donny’s rage bubbles under the skin, facets of his personality ebbing through the performance.
When the performance ends, the audience realises it’s been holding its breath. Tonight with Donny Stixx is breathtaking and near faultless. Do anything in your power to get a ticket.
Tonight with Donny Stixx is playing at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 17, then from 19-24 and 26th-31st August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.