Old Red Lion Theatre, London – until 3 February 2018
What distinguishes a ‘miracle’ from a freak accident? Are miracles by definition the impossible made possible? If, however, the definition is widened to the improbable happening when it’s most needed, that’s less clear-cut and open to interpretation. Such an argument has been foremost on the minds of Lucien and Anthony in Abi Morgan’s play Tiny Dynamite.
Otherwise known as ‘Runt Boy’ and ‘Shy Girl’, the nicknames of Anthony and Lucien wouldn’t look out of place in Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs. Asides from the animal-oriented nicknames and the characters’ Irish background, what Morgan’s play also shares with Disco Pigs is the ache for the past and the confusion that arises from ‘unrequited’ love.
Lucien (Eva-Jane Willis) and Anthony (Niall Bishop) are life-long friends. While many childhood friendships fizzle out in adulthood, they stay in contact by making an annual trip to the countryside – a tradition they’ve maintained for many years. Lucien works in risk assessment and has all the responsibilities one would expect with living in a city. Anthony, by contrast, is ‘bohemian’ in nature, preferring to live on the streets than live a 9-to-5 existence. He also unfettered by worries and open to the notion some things can’t be explained away. At their accommodation, a young woman by the name of Madeleine (Tanya Fear) delivers some fresh food, a young woman who reminds them of someone they knew long ago…
In this particular production, which is directed by David Loumgair, the role of Lucien has swapped genders. While the different temperaments of Anthony and Lucien always made for an interesting contrast in the play’s ménage à trois scenario, making Lucien a woman who is interested in women adds an extra layer of tension to the proceedings – both in terms of their relationship with Madeleine and their own history.
The staging of Tiny Dynamite is technically proficient, utilising overhead retro lighting to evoke the ever-present electrical static in the air, as well as an innovative stage area that ‘trebles’ as a storage facility, a ‘moat’ and an area to ‘swim’.
However, anyone who has more than a passing familiarity with the play knows how nuanced the roles should be and how emotive certain scenes are, especially towards the end. In the case of the character of Anthony, he is eccentric at times and occasionally loses his temper. For the most part, though, he is congenial and calm. In this production, Anthony has more of a volatile personality – less ‘endearing’ and having a greater propensity for flaring up. While the frisson between Madeleine and Lucien is palpable, the necessary chemistry between Lucien and Anthony that gives their past its weight is in short supply.
This production of Tiny Dynamite is on a technical level proficient and interesting, but the ‘sparks’ that are tantalisingly present on the periphery are seldom felt throughout. A shame really, as it is a very good play, with plenty to say about holding on to one’s own pain, as well as the right to be ‘selfish’ and ‘happy’.
© Michael Davis 2018
Tiny Dynamite runs at Old Red Lion Theatre until 3rd February.
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