A new play has finally opened up at Soho Theatre ahead of a UK tour. First premiered in 2018, this iteration of Lava was due to be shared with audiences in May 2020 but had to be postponed due to obvious reasons. Now, nearly 2 years later, it is ready to be seen by the masses, but was it worth the wait?
Lava tells the story of four characters struggling to cope with a mixture of emotions following personal tragedy, and the aftermath of a natural disaster which has struck London and claimed many victims. With a narrative guided by the five different stages of grief, Lava explores themes of self-expression and how we all deal with grief in very different ways.
The show is centred around Vin, played by Dan Parr, and his handling of grief. Finding himself unable to speak, Parr is largely silent throughout the 90 minute play, though always present on the stage. Parr still manages to give an emotional and intricate performance, despite having no power of speech in what is a truly mesmerising character performance. The use of different methods to convey this including projections of text messages and sign language are stunning ways to tell the story.
Vin's mother is played the always wonderful Kacey Ainsworth, who is battling her own emotions, living with a son who now feels like a stranger, due to his inability to speak. An incredible actress, Kacey is a marvel to witness on that stage. Bethany Antonia attempts to push forward the narrative as Rach - a friend and potential love interest to Vin who tries to help in what is a beautiful performance,
The cast are rounded off by Oli Higginson, fresh from his star turn as Jamie in The Last Five Years. Here he plays another Jamie in some absolutely scene-stealing moments, Another character dealing with grief, where Vin is unable to speak, Jamie himself is unable to stop speaking, much to the silent frustration of Vin. Oli is brilliant as the self-obsessed but ultimately sweet natured Jamie, and even gets an opportunity to showcase his gorgeous singing voice in a cringeworthy and seemingly never-ending sequence.
The writing, by James Fritz, is exemplary, exploring various themes of human nature, grieving, love and friendship with sensitivity while poking into each one, uncovering surprising aspects. The dialogue switches from funny to moving, all while retaining completely natural in what was a gripping 90 minutes.
Directed by Laura Ford and Angharad Jones, the play may take place in a small space upstairs at Soho Theatre, but it boasts great set design by Amy Jane Cook with a great use of video projection by Louise Rhoades-Brown. Produced by Fifth Word, the production elements could have easily been staged in a larger space and made the whole thing seem grander than the space we were in.
Ultimately, Lava is a gripping piece of theatre. Well-written and powerful with some surprising twists and turns – including a very unexpected Beyonce performance! It asks some interesting questions and unravels themes that can be complicated and rarely discussed, ending with a message of hope we could all do with right now. With four incredible performers giving it their all on the stage, Lava is a beautifully poignant piece of theatre which deserves to be seen by more people.
Lava plays at Soho Theatre until April 30th and then embarks on a 2 week UK tour. Dates and tickets from http://fifthword.co.uk/current-production