Vernon God Little is a brilliantly refreshing burst of dark comedy at The Young Vic. Adapted by Tanya Ronder from DBC Pierre’s novel, the larger than life characters strut across the stage and occasionally sing country and western ballads to great effect. We are in small town Texas, a Latino boy has shot dead 16 of his classmates and his best friend Vernon is implicated in the crime by the twitchy local Sheriff. Vernon is eventually convicted by a hysterical media circus and then a court of law. The story is tragically timely with the Virginia shootings fresh in our minds, but the play is not about the horror of the killings, but the frenzy surrounding them. The events that catapult Vernon to prison are awful, but also awfully plausible and very amusing. Vernon is played skilfully by Colin Morgan (in his professional debut); he has just the awkward physicality needed to portray a 15 year old boy. The rest of the cast are pretty wonderful too, especially Mark Lockyer as Lally, a slimy fantasist and architect of Vernon’s downfall (he also hilariously portrays a paedophilic psychiatrist who looks like Andy Warhol).
Rufus Norris as director is a happy marriage for this play, his interest in movement and song is perfect for this adaptation (almost a southern cousin for his delightful ‘Market Boy’ at the National last year), the country and western ho-downs are a highlight in fact.
There are longueurs in the production, and I do think it outstays its welcome a little at 2 hours and 45 minutes, but the sheer exuberance of the characters and brilliant low comedy sweeps you happily along for most of the time. The show is like watching a vividly exaggerated dream of reality, perfect for attracting a younger crowd to the show (which judging by my fellow audience members, it has done).