Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 12th January 2018
“moments of light, sound and movement punctuate the changes of scene, mesmerising the audience”
In its first revival since 2003, Abi Morgan’s play ‘Tiny Dynamite’ is an echo of the original production but with a twist. Ten years after a traumatic event, which sends two childhood friends down very different paths, their annual summer holiday together is the scenario for confronting what has left them incapable of moving on and the secret of their dependency.
In this production, David Loumgair, who shows himself to be an exciting and innovative director, changes the gender of Lucien to a woman, Luce. This works well with Luce showing platonic concern and responsibility for her life-long friend Anthony. Both Eva-Jane Willis and Niall Bishop hold the audience’s attention as the layers of their story are peeled away by the appearance of Madeleine, played by Tanya Fear, the catalyst who sparks their buried feelings. However, the stated contrast between the two friends is belied by the character writing. The overly talkative nature of Anthony comes across well but the quietness of Luce is undermined by, quite simply, the number of lines she has, as well as the similarly placid Madeleine. But Luce’s ordered, conventional shell finally cracks in the most moving scene of the play, revealing the relationship’s true balance. Anthony, hit by lightning at the age of six, struggles with the internal static of his emotions and this creates his own hidden turmoil, cleverly enhanced by special effects.
The set by Anna Reid resembles that of the 2003 staging at the Lyric, Hammersmith – wooden decking surrounded by a moat of water, marooning the characters in their triangular relationship. Added to the beautifully economical handling of props, the use of water on stage is refreshing, although the moat could be used to more advantage. The minimalist music (Dan Jeffries) is in keeping with the set and subtly dresses the scenes, only once or twice becoming a distraction. Bare lightbulbs hang above the stage as an aesthetic presence and integral effect (lighting by Zoe Spurr). Coordinated moments of light, sound and movement (Natasha Harrison, Movement Director) punctuate the changes of scene, mesmerising the audience.
Since writing ‘Tiny Dynamite’ Abi Morgan has gone on to have a successful career writing for film and television, genres she says she feels more comfortable with. Here she infuses an underlying discomfort rather than the tension needed to capture an audience from the start. The concept of the title – tiny things sparking off huge reactions – is not altogether coherent and in the end the play is about knowing when to take responsibility for our actions and when to leave things to fate.
Despite some thematic inconsistency ‘Tiny Dynamite’ Is brilliantly executed with fine performances and artistic flair.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Richard Davenport
Old Red Lion Theatre until 3rd February