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Firestarter (247:Theatre Festival - Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Three Minute Theatre
Where: Manchester

Firestarter written by Dave Windass is a confused play that does not fulfil the promise of a strong opening. In a lengthy monologue, pyromaniac Peter (Andy Wilson) describes his obsession and justifies arson by deflecting blame onto his victims. It is a daring opening; Wilson gives Peter an almost child-like innocence that is offset by the alienating nature of his excuses and his hulking, yet sly, presence that suggests a potential for violence.

But the introduction of new, less well-developed, characters knocks the play off-course. While attempting arson Peter is captured by his prospective victims; Tone (Richard Vergette) and Annie (Zoe Matthews). Tone, newly released from gaol, is a control freak who works himself up to the point of violence by imagining his wife’s infidelity. Vergette offers a detached icy aspect to the character but there is not sufficient material in the script to convince that he might have psychopathic tendencies. Annie’s motormouth and Matthews’s strident delivery makes the character so unattractive it is hard to imagine anyone would care about her fidelity.

The point of the play is unclear – the irony of one monster running into a couple who are even worse is not drawn out and the possibility that the whole thing might be an elaborate fantasy is not considered. Director Andrew Pearson offers little clarity. He seems uncertain if the play is a psychological thriller or a black comedy. Apparently the play was inspired by a real – life arsonist who caused panic in the 1970s but the claustrophobic feel of a city under siege is lacking.  There are potential comic lines but they are left hanging, unused, in the air.   

Firestarter demonstrates that a promising start does not guarantee a good play.

- Dave Cunningham


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