Old Red Lion Theatre – until 3 February. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
David Loumgair’s revival of Tiny Dynamite is haunting and hypnotic. Childhood friends Luce and Anthony are staying in a lake house in the country. This is revealed to be an annual routine for the city dwellers, with Luce finding Anthony in the gutter somewhere, cleaning him up and trying to help him cope with his unnamed mental illness.
The pair share anecdotes from the back pages of the paper about freak deaths – Luce revelling in the logic of cause and effect, and Anthony searching for a miracle in the story. They also tell the story of Anthony’s near-death experience when he got hit by lightning as a child, using their nicknames of Runt Boy and Shy Girl. But one story is never finished – the tale of a woman who jumped off a bridge. As the audience is drip fed snippets about the dead woman and her death, it becomes clear that this tragedy is what binds the two together, neither able to move on with their lives and crippled with guilt and grief for their lost love. When they meet Madeleine, an enigmatic drifter, she forces them to face up to the past and their co-dependent relationship, and the full story emerges.
Luce, a risk assessor living in a tiny, organised flat, copes with life by looking for the logic and weighing up the risk of every tiny action; while Anthony’s life is chaotic and harmful to himself and those around him. In this production, Luce is now female, giving their relationship a new twist, with her patronising actions coming across as misguided attempts at mothering, and their childish, physical confrontations make you question who is abusing who. Eva-Jane Willis and Niall Bishop are outstanding as the damaged friends, with Willis portraying a woman just coping but teetering on the edge of breakdown most convincingly, and Bishop switching seamlessly between violent manic outbursts and puppyish joy. Tanya Fear delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as Madeleine.
Anna Reid’s set design – a wooden stage with hidden floor compartments in which to store props, surrounded by water – is inspired, while Zoe Spurr’s lighting and Dan Jeffries’ sound design evoke balmy summer days, spooky caves and fireflies, adding extra layers to this fine production.
Writer Abi Morgan doesn’t make things easy for the audience, weaving ideas and memories together until the final reveal, and there is no neat resolution, just a glimmer of understanding and hope for the future – which is exactly how it should be. Whether you trust in logic and science or are searching for your own miracle, Tiny Dynamite will touch your heart and soul. Grab a ticket while you can.