Fairytales & Fire at the Old Red Lion
In his debut full-length play Fairytales & Fire, writer and director Craig Henry of BackHere! Theatre Company explores the pitfalls of romance and the bewildering power of love in the City of London. Described in the synopsis as a “story of people falling in love, minus the glitter, but with all the hope”, Henry nimbly captures the frustrating and often damaging nature of expectation and the overarching theme of hope that drives the story.
Utilising a non-linear narrative, minimal staging and a small cast of talented 20-somethings, Fairytales & Fire follows four characters whose lives intertwine as they attempt to navigate everyday life and the ever-elusive quest for true happiness. We have James (Charlie G Hawkins) the jobless optimistic, Elizabeth (Victoria Fox) the flirty but frustrated office worker, Clara (Laura Frances-Morgan) her sharp-tongued best friend who just happens to be an escort, and Lester (Hamish Colville), an aspiring author and all-round Oxford douche.
After a chance meeting at the bus stop, the mismatched James and Elizabeth begin an unexpected relationship. In less able hands their romantic courtship could have fallen flat as they don’t immediately look like a typical couple, but the fantastic chemistry between Hawkins and Fox, and Henry’s moving dialogue, ensure their relationship is organic and honest. Hawkins in particular is a minor revelation. Far removed from his best-known role as Darren Miller on EastEnders, Hawkins plays James as the cockney love child of Hugh Grant and Woody Allen and is equal parts charming as he is awkward. Lines such as “I would stay with you until the stars explode” may sound like a snatch of dialogue akin to a Nicholas Sparks novel, but Hawkins delivers it with such raw honesty you can’t help but believe him. The other three leads are just as accomplished, with Colville perfectly dastardly as the closest thing the play has to a villain and Frances-Morgan’s grilling of the audience a fun highlight.
The play does falter slightly in the second act with a barrage of quick-fire revelations and a lack of any real momentum, but thankfully the performances more than make up for any shortcomings. What is clear from Fairytales & Fire is that Henry knows how to write relatable and sincere characters – and when it’s over, all he asks is that you embrace the unexpected and dare to hope.
Fairytales & Fire is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 30th July until 2nd August 2014, for further information or to book visit here.