Last week the Farrer Theatre hosted the Summer School Play Vernon God Little, a darkly comedic narrative of misjustice, betrayal and teenage friendship, directed by the Director of Drama Rebecca Farley.
The play opens in the small Texan town of Martirio, recoiling from a school shooting perpetrated by guitar-strumming Jesus Navarro (Billy H), who accompanies the action throughout the play, watching the ramifications of his actions unfold.
Vernon, the best friend of Jesus, is suspected as an accessory to the crime as he was discovered with Jesus’ ammunition bag. In truth, Vernon is wholly innocent, but is played with such believable naivete by Alban N that he is seemingly incapable of convincing anyone of this!
Vernon is whisked away from police questioning by Pam (Jumah B), whose arrival on stage on a motorised bright pink sofa accompanied by a bucket of KFC was greeted by howls of laughter from the audience, a friend of his mother (Jamie C). His sudden departure from the police station raises suspicions that he was involved with the school shooting. Meanwhile, at home he discovers that his mother has been befriended by Lally (Tristan B), a conman posing as a reporter. Lally’s slick suits and cowboy boots were the perfect accompaniment to Tristan’s oily characterisation.
The situation gradually becomes more and more desperate as Vernon is unable to provide an alibi for the shooting, as he is too embarrassed to the health problem that would see him free. Brilliantly the audience is let in on the secret here, which included a replica of an outside loo being wheeled on stage, with accompanying sound-effects! Vernon is sent to therapy with Dr Goosens, played by Jack S as a comforting academic in a woolly cardigan, but with a dark side that emerges in their sessions together.
Lally, eager to increase his fame, murders the drawling and incompetent Sheriff Porkoney (Leo B) and blames it on Vernon. Now regarded as a serial killer, Vernon, having extorted money from a local paedophile, flees to Mexico. On his journey, he calls up his crush Taylor (Lucas M) and begs her to join him there. Some of the most memorable scenes take place here, with incredible thought going in to the production and staging. A flatpack ‘car’ laden with itinerant workers and hitchhikers moved across the stage, with a bottle of Corona beer flying out every now and then to the soundtrack of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’!
Having bribed his way across the border, he initially enjoys his time in Mexico. However, he is tricked into a forced confession to his crimes by Taylor, who aims to use Vernon’s notoriety to bolster her career as a reporter. Taylor’s costume transformation from small town gal to glittery TV personality was particularly noteworthy.
Vernon is arrested and transported back to America, where he faces trial in a televised courtroom, choreographed through an amazing cell block-style dance routine. Despite his lawyer (Fraser M) proving Dr Goosens’ paedophilia and Lally’s fraud, Vernon is nonetheless found guilty and sentenced to death.
In prison, Vernon finally faces his demons through a conversation with Pastor Lasalle (Obum O), a reformed axe-murderer. Seconds before his execution, another lawyer, Mr Abdini (Angus W), proves Vernon’s innocence and he is reprieved.
Credit must go not only to the superb actors, but also all those involved in the direction, production and technical support of such a wonderful play.