Abi Morgan's immensely poetic yet unadorned writing is the perfect vehicle for this unique collaboration between two renowned companies - Paines Plough and Frantic Assembly. In this co-production of Tiny Dynamite, the actors, the story, the set, lights and sound are all equally important parts of the perfectly formed whole. Not one is there solely to enhance the other - the components all work beautifully together to produce a balanced and beautifully rounded production. The overall result is physical theatre with a great deal of soul.
The storyline is bizarre yet not fantastical. Two boys - Lucien (Scott Graham) and Anthony (Steven Hoggett), friends since childhood - have now grown to adulthood. One friend successful and obsessive, the other derelict and depraved, their need for each other remains intense. An ancient accident, in which six-year-old Anthony's chest was seared by lightning, is still relived daily, as are the circumstances that led to the death of a girl they both loved. Could either of them have saved her?
On holiday, they meet Madeleine (Jasmine Hyde) who reminds them of their childhood sweetheart. The friends' guilt revisits them to such an extent that it appears impossible for either to dare an attempt at recapturing their lost love, even as their communal friendship with Madeleine flourishes.
Madeleine enters easily into their world of shared memories and joins in their relish for telling stories involving elaborate accidents - death by flying sandwiches and killer bees, ricocheting pearl necklaces and trapped dental apparatus - cause and effect, risks, chance occurrences.
The humour in Morgan's writing is real and uncontrived, and the performances of this trio of young actors capitalise on it with relaxed but polished style. Not forgetting the physicality of this production - directed by Vicky Featherstone with assistance from Graham and Hogget - I must give a special mention also to the recumbent beach ballet. Subtly choreographed, the realisation of a dance unfolding creeps up on you until you're thoroughly captivated by the synchronised, yet individual, movements of the three sunbathers. It's a joy to behold.
Julian Crouch's set design is deceptively simple with clever use of on-stage lighting and video projection, and even a jetty with enough water under it to dive into for a swim.
This is stimulating theatre of the first order. Let us hope for more imaginative collaborations to match it.
- reviewed by Annie Dawes at Plymouth's Theatre Royal