Tinderbox

Fri 1st – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Lili Thomas

at 09:22 on 4th Aug 2014

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0disagrees

There’s a revolution. But that revolution is in a basement with three hopeful activists, a flask of tea and some hobnobs. Tinderbox is a play which takes Britain’s frustration at the inhuman cogs of Capitalism and drops it into the hands of three pretty friendly people with a half-hatched plan and a desire for action.

Each of the four characters was brilliantly characterised, but it was their combination on stage which made the show so enjoyable. On Simon (Oliver Forsyth) and Kelly’s (Sadie Parsons) first entrance to the basement their bickering resembled a couple with the keys to their new home. Parsons played Kelly’s desperation and grittiness superbly whilst Forsyth mastered the doubtful and puppy-like obedience of Simon.

The arrival of Michael (James Barbour) with his deliciously booming voice set the basement firmly beneath Roland ARS Bank. His presence commanded the stage. When Mazzy (Charlie Brixon), an innocent cashier girl, was hauled into the mix the dynamics were hilariously thrown into the air. Her plain speaking observations saw order and control begin to delightfully funny effect. Even the tea got cold.

Much of Tinderbox’s humour was held in those moments which clashed with the tone of the revolutionaries’ plotting. The artistic frenzy and passionate excitement of the group filming their mission messages resembled a student film, taking its creative genius a little too seriously. The amateur hopes for their plans collided comically with the seriousness of their intent, whilst Mazzy looked on with bewildered realism.

Yet this intent was somewhat vague. The actual mission of the ‘New Wave’ movement was lost amid the personal pain and motivation of each of the individuals. Whilst this ambiguity could have been purposeful and the political point was there in a skeleton frame, it was difficult to believe such a ‘New Wave’ movement could exist when the driving force appeared to come from personal bitterness rather than a vision for the future. Michael tells us that he spent his days ‘as a slave’ and now chooses to ‘spend the rest of my days as a prisoner’ but it’s unclear to exactly what he is referring. A clear message would have enhanced both the comedy of flustered plan changes and the power behind the need to actively change society.

Yet the increasing tension of the various plot twists was palpable and carried out with fizzing energy. Serious issues of indoctrination, disillusionment, apathy and grief were joined by a light-hearted humour. For the most part I couldn't help but concentrate on the group’s slightly strange but rather friendly character.

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Anna Grace Symington

at 09:56 on 4th Aug 2014

1agrees

0disagrees

This play is a wonderful piece of new writing by Oli Forsyth. The writer takes on the enormous task of exploring the thoughts and actions of three revolutionary activists in the lead-up to their first movement. It blends the comic and the intense to create a play that explores the eerie rapidity with which people can lose their sense of proportion. The play was performed with the skill and professionalism to be expected from graduates of East 15 Acting School and succeeded in being both terrifying and amusing.

The script is interesting in itself. The writer expertly reveals the back story of two of his characters - Simon and Kelly - piece by piece. As each layer is unraveled the atmosphere of the play becomes more tense. The character of the bank cashier, an innocent civilian who unwittingly wanders into the plot, is brilliant. The absurdity of the situation in brought into context by a ditsy woman who alone talks sense among all the madness.

The main let down of the piece is that it does not quite complete the task it sets out to do, leaving the audience with a sense of incompleteness. However the acting in this play was all to a very high standard. Sadie Parsons' performance as a woman driven past the point of reason by anger and grief is convincing and moving. Charlie Brixton as the cashier is hilarious. Her voice and body language for this character are both recognisable as send-ups of the typical bank-cashier woman.

James Barbour does an excellent job in arguably the most challenging of rolls. Due to the lack of background story provided for this character it is difficult to engage with him to the same extent as the others as he proceeds with the revolution. Barbour makes up for this with his captivating presence and charismatic charm.

There were times during the performance when the emotional reactions of the characters did not quite seem to match the gravity of the situation. Although they all took the task in hand seriously, no one seemed as scared as would be expected in a revolution of this kind. This again contributed to the sense of incompleteness that hovered over the play.

Tinderbox is an ambitious play that deals well with the issues it addresses. However it does not quite finish the job - I would be interested to see this as a full length production so it could more easily do so. The characters would have more time to develop and their emotional journey could be more easily tracked. At the moment it hovers just beyond the point of greatness in the realm of really very good.

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Comments

Emily Brearley-Bayliss; 8th Aug 2014; 11:55:45

Great show, stand out performance from Barbour as Michael, and definitely worth a watch!

Georgina Wilson; 9th Aug 2014; 00:10:10

Some really great acting with an interesting if occasionally difficult script - certainly one to go along to.

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