They say lightening doesn’t strike twice, and many will struggle to remember the last time Abi Morgan’s Tiny Dynamite struck the West End. This is the first professional production in London since 2003, but director David Loumgair has enthusiastically embraced the play and given it a renewed lease of life at The Old Red Lion Theatre.
Each summer Lucien picks Anthony up out of the gutter and takes him on a summer holiday. The former, an uptight risk assessor, is in stark contrast to the all too relaxed latter. In each of these summer breaks, it appears that as Anthony (Niall Bishop) washes away the grime of a years’ worth of care-free living, the past resurfaces, and a lost love is remembered. In this vacation, the appearance of Madeleine (Tanya Fear), whom we are meant to assume reminds them of this lost love, brings the past quite vividly to life.
For this production, and this production only we are told, the character of Lucien has been gender swapped, and is now female, which nicely tips the female representation two to one. While we gain Eva-Jane Willis strong and impassioned performance, we lose the dynamic between ‘Luce’ and Anthony as it once was. The tenderness of the relationship now diminished, and at times their horseplay feels inappropriate, or too violent, the connection between them as characters felt just one step out of sync.
In Tiny Dynamite, Abi Morgan delivers the plot in small snippets which intersect each other. Often enveloped in a tale of a ‘freak accident’ which allows Lucien to find a logical explanation against Anthony’s more outlandish thinking. There is a sense of accomplishment for the audience when you get to the end, and realise you’ve more or less worked out what’s going on, even if the path to enlightenment is somewhat frustrating.
While the gender swap proves a radical change to the production, the staging remains very much faithful to the Edinburgh Fringe production last seen more than fifteen years ago. The almost-triangular pine decking lies beneath flickering lightbulbs, to simulate the erratic electricity supply of the summer town.
But Zoe Spurr’s lighting is far more than those flickering light bulbs, she manages to create several different ambiances; at times the lighting sequences can resemble a high stakes gameshow, at others they bathe the set in moonlight, or the bright summer sun. The result is that, primarily due to the lighting design, Tiny Dynamite is very visually appealing.
This first professional production of Tiny Dynamite in well over a decade, gives us a fresh spin on the original story, though it remains excruciatingly cryptic and disjointed. While elements of Lucien and Anthony’s relationship are lost, gains are made elsewhere and there’s a strong sense that Abi Morgan’s play has been revived with genuine love.