A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky at the Lycic Hammersmith
Each of the three playwrights who collaborated in the writing of
this multi-scened, pre-apocalyptic drama have previously produced work
I’ve enjoyed and admired – David Eldridge’s Festen, Robert Holman’s
Making Noise Quietly, Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock .
eight years in gestation, their combined efforts creating this tale of
five generations of the dysfunctional Benton family waiting for the
world to end finally lost all credibility when it culminated in a chat
about cheese. As the final three weeks of life as they know it draw to
an end (cosmic string is the culprit, not some man-made disaster) the
five estranged Benton brothers are drawn back to the pig farm where
their mother Margaret still lives.
black sheep Jake ( he got his girlfriend pregnant decades earlier)
looks almost as old as his septuagenarian parent, whilst youngest
sibling Philip is a mere schoolboy, the same age as Jake’s grandson (a
biological mystery which gets at least some sort of explanation before
the end of the evening).
Philip (Harry McEntire) seems to have
developed the knack of time-travelling – at one point we see him
wondrously cradling his own mother, as a baby, as he turns away from
the adulterous coupling of her mother with a German refugee. Yet he’ll
never have the chance to explore his own sexuality.
Edward is a homeless junkie living rough. Apathetic James, for reasons
best known to himself, tells his wife (who seems to have food
constantly on her mind) to kill his beloved dog rather than take it
along with them. And in perhaps the most memorable scene, Nigel Cooke’s
cancer-ridden William (who’s unlikely to last even as long as the
doomed world) stands naked and vulnerable in a tin bath as Anne
Mitchell’s Margaret tenderly bathes his agonised body.
To be fair, most of the time one can’t really distinguish which
writer is responsible for what, but all the same I was constantly
reminded of that childhood pencil and paper game in which one player
draws a head, folds the paper and passes it on for the next person to
add their contribution and so on until a whole body has been produced.
It’s a weird, convoluted exercise, but although well acted and
with moments of insight (plus a final, uplifting explosion into light
of an otherwise bleak set) these fragmentary glimpses of lives without
a future fail to engage.
Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, W6 0QL (Hammersmith Tube)
0871 221 1726
Till 5th June (£10-25)