Monday, February 26

Lava – Soho Theatre

A small asteroid hitting London is the context for James Fritz new play now showing at the Soho Theatre.   Rather than causing global annihilation, it is a relatively local event although causing significant death and the large-scale displacement of populations.  It throws together 4 characters whose relationships are the substance of the play.

The central character is Vin played by Don Parr who appears to have been struck dumb by the grief caused by the event.  His mother Vicky (Kasey Ainsworth) and friend and workmate Rach (Bethany Antonia) struggle to understand and maintain their relationships with him, especially when the more charismatic and certainly more voluble Jamie (Oli Higginson) arrives.

The setting was simple on a bare stage with a large circular well in the middle filled with grit, possibly emblematic of a post apocalyptic scenario. The play consists of a large number of short scenes and used some impressive video projection designed by Louise Rhoades-Brown, which was effective in projecting the text messages that Vin started to use as a means of communication.

Notwithstanding the grim nature of the events surrounding the action the play is very funny and the cast and co-directors (Laura Ford and Angharad Jones) had worked hard to ring every ounce of humour out of the text.

The acting was superb all round but particular mention must be made of Dan Parr as the silent Vin.  On stage all the time, he had to maintain his engagement with the other members of the cast only through facial reaction and body posture. To sustain this for a full 85 minutes was very impressive.

Although the scriptwriting was very skilful and the acting and direction were impressive, I felt that the play needed a stronger plotline.  Nothing really happens in spite of allusions to a couple of mysterious events.  Although many renowned plays do rely on the development of relationships, rather than events, to sustain interest, I thought a stronger narrative would have raised this from a good to an excellent production.

Lava continues at Soho Theatre until 30th April,

Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd

Reviewed: 7th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★