Writer: Abi Morgan
Director: David Loumgair
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
How are we supposed to deal with the randomness of fate in a world where one person can survive being struck by lightning and another can be killed by a flying sandwich? Abi Morgan’s Tiny Dynamite asks this question through two troubled characters. She wrote the play in 2001 and she has since progressed to greater things.
Six-year-old “Runt Boy” is the victim of the lightning strike. He grows up to become Anthony (Niall Bishop), a sufferer from an unspecified mental illness who is taken on holiday annually by career woman Luce (Eva-Jane Willis), a risk assessor. The nature of their attachment takes time to become clear, but they share secrets. They arrive at their remote residence in the United States and are later joined by Madeleine (Tanya Fear), a sandwich delivery lady who could be physically attracted to Anthony or possibly to Luce.
There can be no questioning the quality of Morgan’s writing which, alone, makes the play worth seeing. However, the problem comes with the slow reveal structure which does not allow us to engage fully with the characters until their secrets become known. In the early stages, the play compensates with suspense, but it tries too hard to be mysterious, introducing, for example, a plague of insects and (literally) things that go bump in the night to suggest the supernatural.
Morgan seems so determined that the play should be enigmatic that she leaves herself little room to flesh out the characters. Bishop’s Anthony is nervy and volatile, contrasting with Willis’ steady and controlled Luce, but, beyond that, the writer leaves it until very late to give us any insights into their emotional lives. If we do not know who these two people are, it is very difficult to care for them and a play that should be partly about suppressed passion is left feeling very cold.
There is still much to admire, including Anna Reid’s set design, which makes ingenious use of the confined space. Her raised stage, surrounded by a moat, incorporates a water-filled pool and underfloor compartments to store props. Zoe Spurr’s murky lighting design gives a sinister air, while sudden flashes and creepy sound effects add to tension.
David Loumgair’s tight production generally flows smoothly, accepting that there may be little that he can do to prevent the play stalling on three separate occasions when the characters need to undress for swimming. However, presumably, he has to shoulder the responsibility for the biggest blow to his production’s momentum – the insertion of a seemingly unnecessary interval that extends the running time to around two hours.
This revival of Tiny Dynamite is intriguing, but never completely satisfying. The play’s title promises explosive drama, but, frustratingly, no one remembers to light the touch paper.
Runs until 3 February 2018 | Image: Contributed