Crash and Burn

Aug 17 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆     Intermittent fire

theSpace @ Niddry St (Venue 9): Sun 13 – Tue 22 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is an energy and compulsion to the opening of Crash and Burn, from Visceral Theatre at theSpace on Niddry St, that is subsequently dissipated, but the overall effect is still very interesting.

Will Leckie’s play is set on a private jet on its way to COP26. Oil tycoon Joseph Johnson and egotistical actor Amodius Vassano are suddenly confronted by a hijack – either Johnson confesses to the crimes he has committed amassing his fortune, or the plane will be crashed.

Nick Gill as Joseph Johnson, Emily Gibson as Jane Johnson, Claudia Rosier as Margot in Crash and Burn. Pic Jacques Engels.

There is a supreme elegance to the set up, and the way the cast are introduced, that speaks of genuine theatrical craft and flair. The subject is painfully timely, and examined from various angles – the crimes of Big Oil, the uselessness of talking-shop conferences, the hypocrisy of some activists – without preaching.

However, the subsequent direction of the narrative does not really convince, and there is a distinct lack of impetus in the second half. The characters, so carefully sketched in at first, never really develop. The use of frequent reminders of time counting down is clearly designed to ratchet up the tension, but has the opposite effect. There are too many discrete and wordy speeches towards the end, and the writer was obviously unclear about how to finish the play.

stylised movements

Similarly, it appears at first that the direction of Zoe Morris is going to make use of some hugely interesting stylised movements, but this falls away, with later instances not being integrated into the narrative sufficiently. The first such interlude is extremely effective, however. It must be pointed out that it is accompanied by extended use of flashing lights, courtesy of Seena Shafai’s impressive lighting design.

Will Leckie as Amodius Vassano, Lydia Clay-White as Cynthia in Crash and Burn. Pic Jacques Engels.

Morris does use the acting space notably well, and there is a real energy to the cast. Nick Gill’s Johnson has a convincing self-righteousness, and it is not the actor’s fault that the character’s age and gravitas are not so apparent.

Leckie himself plays the narcissistic Vassano with poise and humour, with Lydia Clay-White giving his PA Cynthia a self-obsessed charm.

rounded portrayal

Noah Miller has a conviction as would-be ecoterrorist Lewis that convinces, although at times he seems literally to be trying to tie himself up in knots. Emily Gibson suffers from her character – Johnson’s daughter – being less believable, but provides a rounded portrayal nonetheless.

The dilemma of Johnson’s ‘sustainability director’ Margot seems more coherent, meaning that Claudia Rosier is able to make the role entirely credible.

Although the rest of the production never lives up to its opening minutes, there is still much to commend here, with writer, director and cast all showing more than enough promise.

Running time: 50 minutes (no interval)
theSpace @ Niddry Street (Studio), 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 9)
Sunday 13 – Tuesday 22 August 2023 (even dates only)
Daily at 9.20 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Instagram: @crashandburnedfringe

Noah Miller as Lewis Mckenzie in Crash and Burn. Pic Jacques Engels.



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