Theatre Review: Vernon God Little

Can you handle searing satire assaulting the senses? The Young Vic’s dramatisation of DBC Pierre’s Booker Prize winning novel VERNON GOD LITTLE promises all this and more…

Vernon’s best friend goes on a high-school shooting spree and turns the gun on himself; the media, police and community turn their crosshairs on Vernon as the only survivor.

Unfortunately the hapless young Vernon is as eloquent as a braying donkey and everything he utters seems to incriminate him more. Things don’t look promising for Vernon when he is interrogated by a psychotic sheriff but luckily his mum’s pal Pam is on hand to break him out of jail… on a wheelie sofa-car with a neon pink plastic steering wheel.

It’s all farce and craziness from there, as backwater Texas is cruelly and hilariously parodied in a riot of country song, cowboy boots and deep fried chicken buckets. All the inevitable characters are there, but with an extra injection of mania – the pastor has “amen” and “praise the lord” tourettes, the lady judge is a foulmouthed gospel-singing momma, and the attorney’s “foreign” accent is so unintelligible he has to mime everything he says.

The Young Vic’s high octane stage adaptation cleverly captures the feeling of frustration in DBC Pierre’s Booker Prize winning novel – against all the chaos of constantly changing sets, actors playing numerous characters in increasingly outlandish wigs, and a ridiculous propensity for bursting into song, it is little wonder Vernon’s meek cry of innocence is overlooked.

This is like “Kafka the Musical” on nitrous oxide and the loud brashy pace can be a bit of an assault on the senses, but when your eyes adjust to the frenzy what you are left with is a searingly intelligent satire on criminal justice and media demonisation.

* Showing at the Young Vic in The Cut, SE1, until Saturday, March 5.