Steven Smith heads to the Soho Theatre in London to watch Kacey Ainsworth in James Fritz’s LAVA.
The late, great French stage actress – Sarah Bernhardt – was a devotee of the craft of acting. She once boasted that she could take attention away from other actors by merely sitting and knitting on stage, so powerful was Sarah’s presence and her ability to be, as actors say, “in the moment”. Sure enough, the audience’s attention seemed totally focused on Bernhardt whenever she was on stage.
Bernhardt may have been silent from time to time, but if you take yourself down to London’s Soho Theatre, you will be astounded at the talents of a young actor from Cheshire – Dan Parr. Parr plays Vin, a man who becomes mute due apparently to a meteorite hitting London and killing his father. For just under two hours, Parr says nothing but captivates the audience in such a way that you will truly want to get up and hug him, so moving is his portrayal of Vin’s tortured soul.
That said, Dan’s performance takes nothing away from the rest of the exceptional cast. He is joined by the accomplished Kacey Ainsworth (EastEnders, Grantchester), who plays Vin’s mother, Vicky. Kacey manages to bring humour to the part in all the right places but also beautifully captures the loneliness of bringing up a son with complex needs. In the hands of a less experienced actress, Vicky could have been played for laughs, but Kacey has you on the edge of your seat with her moving portrayal as she fights to get through to her son, who she loves and for whom she has given up so much.
Debutante Bethany Antonia is Rach (House of the Dragon and Stay Close). This is her first time on the London stage and we should all hope that it’s not her last – with her brilliant comic timing, you would think she had been doing this for years! Her ability to show empathy to Vin and keep the audience second-guessing her intentions is electric.
Laughter and tears
Staying with Rach and escaping the meteorite damage in London is cousin Jamie, played by Oli Higginson (Pursuit of Love and Bridgeton). Jamie is recovering not just from the physical damage but also from the death of his mother, who was killed while cycling when the meteorite hit. Again, Higginson takes a tragic tale and has the audience in stitches with both laughter and tears.
You might not think that a show about a meteorite hitting London is what we need right now, but trust me, you will be talking about this little gem of a show for days. It is not only funny, it is a prime example of gifted actors who bring their craft to life and leave you wanting more.
With some theatre shows costing hundreds of pounds, LAVA – with the dearest seat costing around £21 – is not just good value for money, for once you will leave the theatre thinking the cast have been robbed.
Find LAVA at the Soho Theatre until 30th April before touring the UK.