Brighton Fringe 2009
The First Domino
Venue: Latest Bar
Marking the 10th anniversary of the Soho pub bombing, playwright-survivor Jonathan Cash and award-winning director Faynia Williams take the audience on a terrifying journey as secrets are revealed and reality blurs.
There is no doubt that this is a really electric and powerful piece of theatre. Jonathan Cash, survivor of the nail bombing of the Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho’s heartland, has used his personal story to craft an intriguing, sometimes strangely comic and sometimes harrowing investigation into the mind of a murderer.
As we enter the theatre space, a bare chested young man kneels across a Union Jack as he slowly, malevolently assembles a bomb, which he puts in a bag and leaves, unnervingly, at the side of the stage.
The scene changes and the remainder of the play focuses on the developing relationship between the perpetrator of this crime, now in a psychiatric prison, and a young aspiring doctor, who seems intent on seeking understanding of the crime and what drove the bomber to bring about the carnage. An uneasy and tense relationship develops between the two protagonists which eventually overwhelms them both in a bleak, chilling and genuinely terrifying climax.
On the surface, this is a piece which sets out to illuminate the reasons behind such a cruel and violent act but what I took away from this was a feeling of hate. Above all, this is a play about hate: homophobia, racial hatred, prejudice, lack of tolerance and the inability to forgive. It shows us how violent acts perpetuate their own violence and how human interaction can fail to mend the rifts or thwart the demons that haunt those on the fringes of what is considered to be acceptable society.
This is a really brave and admirable piece of writing from a new playwright who has no fear of offending, who’s dialogue unflinchingly confronted us with the language and terror of bigots and who has given his real life experience a voice that left the audience feeling shocked and uneasy.
It is unfortunate then that despite a charismatic performance by Danny Seldon as the bomber, Cartland, there were moments in the piece that left me feeling a little cold. I suspect this was largely down to the awe in which the audience held the piece; it wasn’t easy to sit alongside someone who has lived through such a frightening event. The humour evident in the script seemed to be suppressed and I felt that the strangely remote performance by Cary Crankson as the doctor relied on playing the drama of the piece rather than the truth. The director however assembled an excellent production team to drive this piece, with sinister grey sculptures suspended from the ceiling and the amazing work of composer Rory Cameron, who created a truly eerie and chilling soundscape.