“Lava” by James Fritz
Nottingham Playhouse, Neville Suite.
Nottingham Playhouse, Neville Suite.
So, what is “Lava” all about, as the title gives nothing away. Well, a small asteroid has hit London. In a town far away, but I get the feeling very local, a young man called Vin is finding it hard to talk.
Now, the only person who seems to bother, apart from Vin's mum, is a young girl called Rachel who makes it her business to find out why this is, and to help him get his voice back.
As time goes by, we discover that what Vin doesn't reveal is more sinister than what he does reveal. Slowly the truth is revealed like the peeling of an onion, but not all the mystery is discovered, leaving you to fill in the gaps.
Written by James Fritz, this is a very clever piece of theatre,and literature with four very different characters who bounce off each other really well and are believable. Characters you can emotionally connect with.
Ted Reilly (Vin) possibly has the hardest of roles here. That may seem a contradiction in terms as he has almost no lines, but having to act with his face and body and express everything he needs to get across must be a test for any actor. You can feel the frustration in his face and actions and slowly you start to understand the emotions he is experiencing as a result the fallout from of his own bombshell.
Safiyya Ingar (Rach) shows us comedy as well as frustration, anger and affection as she tries to reach out to Vin, who we find out worked in the same call centre as Vin. She is the one that he opens up ever so slightly to, and there's a lovely openness where the two are dancing around to Sia's "Chandelier". Rach sticks with Vin and by the ens of the play there's a real light at the end of the tunnel for the pair.
Fred Fergus (Jamie) plays a survivor of the London asteroid and we discover, on several occasions, that he lost his mother as part of the tragedy. Jamie bulldozes his way into Vin's and Rachel's life but that bravado he shows is part front as we see a rare crack in the armour with a gentle one to one with Vin. Jamie first thought he and Vin had something in common, but after the man to man, we also find they have something else in common.
Emma Pallant (Vicky) plays Vin's mum. long suffering and an emotional role to play. Vicky is part of the time walking on egg shells and the other half trying to keep normality for Vin. there's a heart wrenching scene where she loses her cool with Vin. There's also another wonderful scene with Vin where there looks like a breakthrough is about to happen.
All four of these actors make us seem like flies on the wall,witnesses to this private turmoil.
Directed by Angharad Jones, assisted by Laura Ford, they, along with the actors, make this 85 minute piece of theatre seem half the length. You invest your time and interest in these characters which is a sign that the Directors have done their job with the cast really well, making them characters you want to know and find out about.
The set designed by Amy Jane Cook is stark but always reminding us of the asteroid that sparked the opening of the story by having a big round crater in the centre of the stage. Another large circle in the "wall" of the set creates a wonderful back-lit and atmospheric entrance and positional piece for the actors.
Lighting designed by Alexandra Stafford,and the bleak black outs, which separate the scenes, entrances and exits of the actors split the story well with effect.
Dan Balfour’s Sound Design is subtle and at times, although you know it is there, seems almost invisible because there's so much concentration on the characters and the wonderful story. Take that sound-scape away though and the atmosphere would be very different.
The video design by Louise Rhoades-Brown and is a vital timeline reminder of the piece as well as letting us know the various emotional stages we were at with the characters.
I found this a really interesting piece of theatre and i thought how frustrated i would be if, as Rach herself observed, one was to lose the power of speech. Our every day life would be totally different. This in itself is a talking point. It's also the story of friendship and relationships and understanding others and their feelings, masking inner emotions and covering up and asking for help. being afraid, being brave and presenting bravado.
A fascinating, thought-provoking and entertaining piece of work that deserves, and calls for full audiences.
“Lava” is at the Neville Suite at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 30 June 2018.