DramaLondonReviewVAULT Festival

Fireworks – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Alex Robins

Director: Jack Bradfield

One of the last times that the world was going to end was in 2008 when the Large Hadron Collider began its tests to find out what’s inside a proton. The tabloids warned us that we could all disappear into a black hole. Fireworks explores this period from two angles: one from a scientist, and the other from a conspiracy theorist who believes that we may already be dead.

But Alex Robins’s play is about another kind of collision too. River and Drew are like protons, glancing off each other but never quite crashing together. On the day the world ends, she’s at a music festival and has just dropped a bad E. Her euphoria was short-lived and the paranoia is leading her to the nearest exit.

Breaking into the festival at the same time is Drew who’s escaped his dreary job in an office where he’s the only one ever asked to work late. In a spirit of defiance, Drew has fled the boss to get to the open-air concert in time for the closing fireworks.

This might sound pleasantly straightforward but interspersed into this story are online science lessons delivered by a woman who only has a few followers on her channel. Across from her, a man calls for recruits to destroy the Large Hadron Collider. Both lectures appear equally fictitious.

As River, Gráinne O’Mahony confidently describes her bad trip and as the scientist she shows sadness behind a schoolteacher’s condescension. In his first professional role, James Murphy-Stevens gives Drew a gawky sweetness, and an unsettling madness to the conspiracy theorist. They both deliver Robins’s lines with ease, even nailing such overly poetical phrases as ‘an ulcer at Easter’ and ‘hunkered in bunkers’.

Together the two actors, never missing a beat, create a world of colour and facts, and for a show that ponders the beginning of life, it ends on the perfect Big Bang.

Reviewed on 15 March 2020

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