New and exciting theatre is well and truly alive in Manchester! For the proof look no further than the Lowry’s world premiere production of Kevin Fegan’s multimedia play Fireflies which is running until the end of October.

This is essentially a simple tale perfectly described by its own tagline; a love story waiting to happen. Set in Manchester Leigh and Nelson are two single parents of growing children struggling to make sense of their problematic and complicated worlds.  Leigh (Naomi Radcliffe), adopted as a child, recently divorced and facing eviction from the home she cannot afford sets out to find her biological family and soon learns that the grass isn’t always greener. 

Nelson (Paul Simpson) appears to have the rawer deal as he struggles to deal with his daughter’s drug addiction and eventual imprisonment.  However, it is clear that what both characters desire more than anything is nothing more than the love of an equal and it is this simplicity of need that strikes such a chord with the audience.  These are characters that it is easy to care about and root for despite their flaws.

Radcliffe and Simpson are a charismatic pair and their performances are equally matched in their quality and depth with both showing an aptitude for comedy and a great emotional range. 

There is a significant local feel to proceedings. All the characters, major and minor, are, rather charmingly, named after towns local to Manchester. That is not to say, though, that the play does not resonate more universally. Indeed, the story is timeless and could easily be reset in any town or city without compromising the integrity of the writing.

From a production point of view Fireflies is a triumphant partnership of mediums seamlessly bringing together film and live performance in a potentially complicated manner that actually feels logical and is extremely comfortable to watch. I have seen a variety of multimedia theatre productions and result is often mixed and never as seamless as this. Credit is due to designer Dawn Allsopp and film production company Lion Eyes for the clever physicality of the production.

At only 80 minutes without an interval the action is paced beautifully by director, Noreen Kershaw, who clearly believes in Fegan’s excellent and intelligent script. Her commitment to the vision of the piece has ensured that the Lowry has produced a top quality production of an excellent new play that surely deserves a life beyond this world premiere.

-Malcolm Wallace