Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Fireflies - Lowry Theatre, Salford

Writer: Kevin Fegan
Director: Noreen Kershaw
Reviewer: Poppy Helm

Local playwright Kevin Fegan's latest stage offering is the gritty Manchester based 'love story waiting to happen', Fireflies, playing now at the Lowry.

This is a story that begins at the end with single mum, Leigh, hailing a taxi to the airport to escape the confines of 'the estate'. The following eighty minutes take us on a journey through her backstory and that of her neighbour Nelson, who's own life runs in an almost prophetic parallel. Their troubled existences unravel in tandem, culminating in a chance meeting that leaves us both desperately hopeful and delightfully voyeuristic, as we speculate on their potential future together.

Both actors play a multitude of distinct characters that are both energetic and engaging. The sheer pace and quantity of dialogue almost leaves the audience gasping, but Leigh (Naomi Radcliffe) and Nelson (Paul Simpson) barely pause for breath, apparently making these transitions with ease.

Black and white video footage plays behind the action, sometimes providing an evocative backdrop, and at others providing characters for Leigh and Nelson to interact with directly. This neat use of multimedia adds another dimension, particularly for the most emotionally charged moments such as when Nelson visits daughter Pendle in prison.

Both actors resist the temptation to rely on this device and instead we recognise that they are sufficiently talented to carry the story on an empty stage, should they have needed to. A tidy set with a 'living room' and 'cinema' that emerge from behind the projector screen keep the audience's focus where it should be – on the actors.

Despite the odd bizarre deviation from the main plot (Nelson's mysterious telephone sex-texter doesn't add a great deal to the story, other than some light relief), this is an honest portrayal that manages to avoid stereotypes and deliver an excellent narrative. Mancunians in particular will enjoy the opening footage of night-time scenery and the quirky character names that give a nod to their beloved city.

Photos: Ben Blackall
Runs at until 31st October.
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