Tiny Dynamite: How to flood a fringe theatre stage

Abi Morgan’s ”Tiny Dynamite” is being revived at the Old Red Lion

Tiny Dynamite is an exploration of how tiny events from our pasts can have explosive effects on our future. It follows the story of two childhood friends, Lucien and Anthony, who are bound together by an event that has burdened them with trauma and left them incapable of moving forward with their lives, due to a powerful grief they are both unwilling to confront. It's a tale of finding strength through pain, of knowing when to take responsibility for your life and when to just step back and let a miracle happen.

We agreed that there had to be water in the show, a lot of it

My creative process ultimately began with our brilliant set and costume designer, Anna Reid. We were both fascinated by this traumatic event, which Abi Morgan keeps deliberately out of reach until the final moments of the play, but the tension created by this shared trauma seeps into every crack and every silence between the characters.

Anna and I shared multiple cups of tea (and glasses of wine) talking about how this event shapes the relationship between the three characters, and how we might be able to physically represent the impact of this trauma on the childhood friends through the set design.

Water is the key element of this traumatic event, and there is a very clear relationship between water and electricity that runs throughout the rest of the play. This relationship creates an innate sense of risk and danger for the characters, which Anna and I wanted to express through design to the audience.

So we were both fundamentally agreed that there had to be water used in the show, and a lot of it. We wanted to convey the idea that these characters are almost physically held in stasis by this trauma, unable to move on with their lives, and that the bodies of water we see during actual scenes also act as a constant reminder of this grief.

The relationship between water and electricity creates an innate sense of risk and danger

It's a really exciting yet daunting challenge from a design perspective because you rarely see vast amounts of water used in small-scale theatre, but it's a challenge which Anna has thrown herself at and from which she has created something absolutely astounding. After creating multiple versions of the set and lighting design, continually adapted after conversations with our production manager and realising what was technically possible, we found the perfect balance between the amount of water Anna and I wanted to use and how it could be spread across the space.

Our final set is essentially a diamond-shaped platform made with wooden planks, to represent a deck or pontoon that you would find by a lake, surrounded on all sides by a tank of water which the actors interact with and get in/out of throughout the course of the play. It really effectively conveys this idea of being held in stasis, as all of the actors remain onstage throughout the play. Lighting supports the psychological tension.

There's a second tank of water that features in our set, which serves a different purpose, so you'll have to come and see the show to find out whether we succeed…!

Tiny Dynamite runs at the Old Red Lion from 12 January to 3 February with previews from 9 January.