Rachel (Maddie Rice) is like so many young, fresh-faced graduates students today. Leaving university with aspirations of changing the world, making a difference, she swiftly realises that it’s more important to survive in London than to make a difference. With a sales job calling and commission on tap, those naïve life-changing dreams are replaced with embarrassing Christmas parties, mortgages and out-performing her colleagues, “Greed is not just good. Greed is everything”. Except in this case, Rachel escapes the seductive corporate lifestyle pull and eventually trains to be a social worker. Perhaps she is simply unlucky, perhaps it’s the private sector’s twisted version of karmic retribution, but one case doesn’t go exactly to plan. Suddenly Rachel is thrust into the media spotlight for altogether less appealing reasons. She becomes the Villain in her own right.
Martin Murphy’s Villain has a plain and simple attitude about it. With only a chair as a prop, actor Maddie Rice and the words are exposed to audience scrutiny. With plain and simple dialogue comes an emotive, factual performance packed full of observational comedy and blunt, shocking home truths. Rice has everyone on her side even though in the story, the world is seemingly against her. In an autobiographical commentary, she explains her point of view with honesty and integrity. If you don’t like it, lump it.
The structure of the production is somewhat fragmented. The combination of jumping through Rachel’s timeline and her short, sharp speech gives the impression of a random train of thought, the ramblings of a slightly ditsy young woman who can’t seem to keep her mouth shut. But Rice embraces this, uses it to her advantage and manages to knit together a cohesive plotline despite jumping between musings in her head without any pre-text, background or justification. Rice keeps the text alive with a well-judged sense of pace, such that when she bounces from present to past, her characterisation and physical acting is immediately recognisable.
The true kernel of the story is never fully explained, a smart choice by Murphy. The event itself is unimportant, more so the people whose lives are thrown off balance as a result. Villain resonates in all sorts of situations, a reminder that there are two sides to every story and not to pre-judge a person based on a single, careless action.
Villain – Soho Theatre, London
Writer & Director: Martin Murphy
Producer: Hannah Cox for Bruised Sky Productions
Cast: Maddie Rice
Previewed on 2 Aug, runs from 4 – 28 August at Edinburgh Fringe 2016 (Underbelly Cowgate)