I’m a sucker for plays that have characters with polarised opinions. In the hands of a gifted writer, their words will resonate with the audience – each touching on a pertinent truth, but only one facet of the Whole. So it is with Abi Morgan’s Tiny Dynamite, which has been revived recently by Wise Child Theatre and directed by Henry Bauckham. Written and first performed in 2001, Tiny Dynamite is a gem of a play, revolving around three characters: Lucien, Anthony and Madeleine. Morgan plays around with the format of the play, punctuating the main narrative with Anthony and Lucien speaking about their formative years, using their childhood aliases ‘Runt Boy’ and ‘Shy Boy’. So far, so Trainspotting.
Anthony and Lucien are the proverbial ‘odd couple’ – Anthony (Ed Thorpe) ‘less-tall’ in stature, but full of energy and the personification of spontanaeity; Lucien (Tommy Burgess) – serious, concerned, always makes measured responses. It is quickly established that they knew each other as children and that their ‘vacation’ at Lucien’s expense is an annual event. Some people meet up at Christmastime – ‘Runt Boy’ and ‘Shy Boy’ touch base in the summer. Asides from the difference in temperaments, their ‘vocations’ and ‘abodes’ couldn’t be more dissimilar – Lucien working as a risk assessor for an insurance firm, while Anthony likes ‘living on the streets’. Much of the early part of the play hints at a secret that has been gnawing away at both men for years, involving a woman they both once knew. Left to their own devices, this would continue for years to come. But then they meet Madeleine (Ruby Richardson) who reminds them in many ways of ‘her’. Can lightning strike twice in the same place..?
As a catalyst for the developments in the second half, Madeleine is herself a bit of mystery. Always on the move, Madeleine keeps herself busy with several jobs to makes ends meet. But where does she find the time to relax, to think? Something about the ‘Boys’ intrigues her, so different from the other tourists who visit. But the more she finds out about them, like a painting that uses negative space, she ‘sees’ there is a void they can’t… won’t… talk about in her presence.
While the competing philosophies permeate throughout the play, it is at the emotional impasse that they are most keenly felt – between Lucien’s ‘rational’, impersonal universe where everything has a cause and effect and Anthony’s unpredictable, but benign universe which can defy explanations and produce miracles. In the face of tragedy, it is all too easy to disavow the presence of anything ‘good’ and ‘fair’ in the universe behind events, but as Anthony has accepted, who’s to say there are answers for everything?
Some plays keep you gripped, but their endings falls short of expectations. Tiny Dynamite‘s ending with regards to opportunities, closure and the shades in-between in relationships is satisfying.
As a relatively new theatre group, Wise Child Theatre have knocked the ball out of the park with this sterling effort. The three principal leads are very well-cast and I’m surprised I haven’t come across them before. In any case, I’m sure we’ll see more of these actors and of Wise Child Theatre in the future. There’s never enough exceptional theatre out there.
© Michael Davis 2017
Tiny Dynamite ran at Camden People’s Theatre between 20th-25th June 2017