Vernon God Little, black comedy and 2003 Booker Prize winner, was something of a let down for me. I found it more a depressing look at small town Texas, than an up-beat comedy. So it was with slight trepidation I took my seat at the classy Young Vic theatre, London, waiting for the stage play of the book to begin...
A quick summary of the plot, I think. Vernon Gregory Little, high-school loser, and lone friend of Jesus Navarro, is in trouble. Jesus, sick of constant bullying for his Mexican ways, has taken his father's gun and mascaraed his classmates. Vernon, away from the scene of the crime at the time, is grabbed by the local sheriff department as a scape-goat. As a media frenzy begins in this backwater Texan town, Vernon decides his only option is to leg it to Mexico.
Vernon God Little, the play, succeeds gloriously where Vernon God Little, the book, faltered. It is fun, up-lifting, sad and moving, with an almost universally likeable cast of characters. Even the antagonists such as Eulalio Ladesma, played with a bombastic American swagger, are easy to love.
The soundtrack, performed by the cast throughout, is perfect. A blend of Mexican folk music - played by the wandering ghost of Jesus Navarro, soaked in the blood of his classmates, but with an air of one whose troubles are now past – and addictive modern showtunes, the music compliments the play beautifully. A highlight for me was a Mexican rendition of Ring of Fire by the man in black, Johnny Cash.
Another highlight of the play is the set, and the way it is utilised by the cast. The whole set, from sofas to buildings, is on casters, and the cast whiz about pushing and swinging across the stage in an energetic performance. The sets, though generally similar in layout and props, evoke the true sense of the locations perfectly. Texas, where Vernon is hated, persecuted and chased, is a bleak, unloving place, whilst across the border in Mexico, where Vernon finds a temporary happiness, is given a gentle glow, and an inviting hammock, to compliment his feelings.
All round brilliant performances from the cast, excellent production values and a stellar soundtrack make Vernon God Little a must see event.