Tiny Dynamite by Abi Morgan
Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St. John Street, short walk from Angel Tube Station
2 hours including a 20 minute interval
Veronica Stein, January 12th, 2018
Compact and compelling
Every year, Lucien picks up her oldest friend Anthony at his lowest point, and takes him away to get him back to the closest he can get to normalcy. At their holiday rental, nostalgia and tension diffuse through the air in equal measure. Enter Madeleine- enter the crackle of electricity.
Anthony is obsessed with stories of freak accidents. Luce is obsessed with unpacking them for what they are: equation, cause and effect- explaining the inexplicable. This dichotomy is more than difference in personality, for Anthony and Lucien have been shaped completely by their shared history from childhood on. Lightning struck Anthony in the chest as a boy, a ‘runt-boy’ who was always a bit behind, but he somehow survived. Ever since, he tells the tale with not only panache but also with Lucien there to explain the more pragmatic aspects. He also wants to talk about their old friend, the other point of their so-called triangle, but Lucien would rather not- the circumstances of the triangle’s disintegration aren’t cut and dry, and perhaps the rubble is crushing her under its weight. Madeleine only helps to remind her of the burden- but for some reason Luce wants to keep her around.
In David Loumgair’s production of Abi Morgan’s little-produced but often poignant Tiny Dynamite, in which Lucien is played as a woman (very well-played, in fact, by Eva-Jane Willis), every element is slick: the characters are slickly dressed, the transitions are slickly choreographed, the dialogue is slickly fluid, and all are slickly tied to each other. The design, however, is positively immaculate. Anna Reid’s smartly symbolic set is sublimely compact and yet completely mesmerizing. A small moat surrounds the action, the characters exiting with care into what could be abyss (they certainly aren’t sure), and a coffinesque pool at the center of the stage keeps water on the brain at all times. The mismatched edison bulbs serve to cast a hazy glow and perhaps even comment on Anthony’s own electric past.
The performances are equally fitting, with Niall Bishop’s Anthony impressively maintaining mental difficulty without resorting to childishness and Tanya Fear’s natural and warm portrayal of Madeleine. Willis is superb at balance- whether it is impatience as well as care with regards to Anthony or the push and pull of Madeleine and all she represents. The three together are remarkable for their restraint, which allows the dialogue to shine and the intimacy to never feel forced.
Though Morgan’s script is flawed in some ways, like the leaving of highly compelling information in darkness (some until it’s too late in the play to induce shock, some to sit there forever), it is still gripping in the right hands, as it is here.
Tiny Dynamite deals with dualities, whether they be stripes and solids, little events and their giant chain reactions, or whether water is a force for cleansing or a force for drowning. A singular message, however, is clear: perhaps moving on is the miracle.
Lucien: Eva-Jane Willis
Anthony: Niall Bishop
Madeleine: Tanya Fear
Director: David Loumgair
Movement Direction: Natasha Harrison
Design: Anna Reid
Lighting Design: Zoe Spurr
Music & Sound Design: Dan Jeffries