Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Flames

Stephen Dolginoff
Waterloo East
Waterloo East Theatre

Flames

As the audience enters the auditorium at Waterloo East, they are greeted by a spooky, dimly-lit graveyard and a soundtrack of wind, rain and thunder. This opening creates a sinister and yet clichéd tone which, deliberate or not, haunts the whole production.

Meredith and Eric are at the tombstone of Edmond, who died in a fire the year before. Still grieving for her lost fiancée, Meredith can’t come to terms with Edmond’s actions before he died and Eric (Edmond’s best friend) doesn’t want to relive them. This all changes however, as events unravel and secrets are revealed.

Billed as a musical thriller, Flames ticks both boxes with a genuinely twisty plot and, where it works, memorable music. Abi Finley, Bradley Clarkson and David O’Mahony are a committed cast lending rich voices and pumping a huge amount of energy into the complicated characters. Finley in particular shines as the emotionally fragile Meredith who never leaves the stage.

The opening scenes are, for musical theatre, largely naturalistic and a gentle introduction to the concept and characters. "He Can Still Hear You" and "I’m The Kind Of Girl" are truthfully delivered and with minimal lighting changes or choreography are presented in an uncluttered, unfussy style.

The issue with the show however, is that as the storyline becomes more intense the script descends into melodrama with lines such as “you’ll never get away with this”—“I already have” which, although delivered completely straight, are just too closely associated with parodies to be taken seriously.

Equally, the decision to step in and out of memories (a fairly standard theatrical technique) becomes comical when the lyric “that’s what happened on the night of the fire” is repeated every single time. Instead of building tension, it simply builds the temptation to laugh.

Therein lies why this is a difficult review to write, it’s an uneven piece but does have some flashes of potential. On the whole, however, the capable cast is hampered by clunky direction leading to larger laughs.

Running at approximately an hour and twenty, this production is a bite-sized thriller that packs a punch of a (ridiculous) plot but showcases all three actors.

The audience was certainly thrilled by it, just possibly not for the right reasons.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston