Lynn Ferguson's second play (after 1995's award-winning Heart And Sole ) is a family drama told in monologues. Mother Ellen is preparing for the traditional family Guy Fawkes party, while daughter Jennifer hides on her return visit in her room with a bottle of red wine and a series of bilious opinions and father Douglas tries to sublimate his various concerns and guilts in a lecture on fireworks. The most significant absence is son Mickey, dead some years since.
The three actors – Ferguson, and Hope Ross and Robert Paterson as her parents – are deft in their characterisation and faultless in their delivery. The set of Stephen Powell's production subtly consists of a collection of domestic furniture, all badly charred... so we know, even without the opening flash-forward, that the evening is never likely to end in oohs and aahs at the pyrotechnics. Ferguson's central theme is embedded in the pun of the title: family relationships can be lethally inflammable.
Despite all the foregoing, a disappointing air of "so what?" hangs over the hour. Ferguson has created a sensitive snapshot of a family each trying to retreat into their own little world, but the play's conclusion (without giving the game away) is more a sudden coup than any kind of resolution; the play doesn't end, it just stops, rather definitively.
Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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