The intimate space of the Hope Theatre makes you a fly on the wall as you witness a groundbreaking hour in the lives of two apparent strangers. The suspense is palpable from the beginning as there is clearly more to this encounter than meets the eye. Running through without an interval, the tension of the play increases as the pasts of both character gradually come to light.
With a thoughtfully simple set, and minimal lighting, the play relies on engaging dialogue and sensational acting, which Firefly Heartbeat more than delivers. It is beautifully acted from the beginning, with both actors giving emotionally charged performances. James Sutherland, as the haunted visitor, invokes sympathy and horror in equal measure, whilst Kellie Jane Walters presents a striking mixture of fragility and strength.
The play opens with Madeleine, a sex worker in Kings Cross, Australia, getting ready for a regular evening of work. With her belongings scattered around her small room, she re-touches her makeup in wait for the next caller.
This turns out to be Stuart, an endearingly nervous man, who doesn’t seem to know why he’s there. Under the guise of a lonely man whose wife has left him, he instantly launches into deeply personal questions about her past, and we begin to suspect that his visit is perhaps a little less innocuous than it initially appeared. As the plot unfolds, we glimpse snippets of the complex and duplicitous lives of these two characters, both of whom draw back as soon as they let anything personal slip. The intrigue increases as Stuart secretly pockets her personal possessions, and refuses to leave the apartment, maintaining a sense of calm that is occasionally broken by bursts of anger, hinting at a sinister character beneath. Madeleine’s responses are often comical, offering moments of light relief from the tension of Stuart’s true purpose. In the moments that she lets down her guard, the sweetness and innocence of her former self come to the fore, and we see her as the ‘Firefly’ of her past.
Despite the constant sense that something is amiss, nothing can prepare the viewer for what is to come, as in a shocking and emotional revelation both characters buckle under the pressure of their respective facades. At times warm and amusing, at others haunting and sinister, Firefly Heartbeat keeps you guessing to the very end, and is certain to leave every member of the audience deeply moved.
Review by Breeze Barrington
Set in the heart of Sydney, Australia’s gritty Kings Cross, we meet a writer (Stuart) who comes into contact with a sex worker (Madeleine) and finds that he’s only interested in paying her to talk. Claiming to be researching for his new book, Stuart probes at Madeleine and finds himself becoming increasingly fascinated with her and her past. Madeleine obliges but keeps him guessing by toying with him.
However, when Stuart’s true motives are revealed, the meeting of these two supposed strangers develops into a battle that only one of them can truly win.
“You must have wanted something. What was it? What did you dream about as a little girl? Before this big, bad and unfair world eroded your natural optimism?”
Firefly Heartbeat is a powerfully emotional and visceral play from Edward Davenport. Davenport’s other plays include Hours till autumn (Riverside Studios), Sandbox (Soho Theatre) and Through the Lunchtime Smoke.
Cast: James Sutherland and Kellie Jane Walters
Creatives: Producer & Director Mario Demeriou
Writer Edward Davenport
Designer Rosie Motion
Stage Manager Richard Davies
The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL
5th to 23rd May 2015
Tue – Sat 7.45pm
Running Time: Approx 1hr no interval
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Friday 8th May 2015