Theatre Review: The Ones Who Kill Shooting Stars - White Bear Theatre, London ✭✭✭✭

The Ones Who Kill Shooting Stars

A dreamy, deserted Irish beach is brought to life in the White Bear Theatre for award-winning playwright Conall Quinn’s latest work, The Ones Who Kill Shooting Stars, a surreal tragicomedy set during the Second World War, referred to in Ireland at the time as ‘The Emergency’.

The narrative centres around three characters: Alice, (Clare Fraenkel), an imaginative, romantic girl who’s perpetually running away from home (despite living alone); Henry (Gregory Finnegan), an alcoholic night watchman who is trying to attract the attention of the girl he loves (unfortunately armed only with a flare gun); and Edward (Damien Tracey), Henry’s no-nonsense, bad-tempered boss, who is giving up the princely sum of two days every other fortnight to support his country by supervising Henry. Alice’s yearning for companionship leads her to adopt a dead pilot who has washed up on the beach, constructing an elaborate fantasy that eventually draws in Henry and the initially sceptical Edward.

Whilst the plot summary sounds a little strange, I found this play warm, engaging and brilliantly funny. The dialogue is at once both poetic and hilariously matter-of-fact, and helped to emphasise the increasingly blurred boundaries between fantasy and reality within the narrative. Many of Henry’s analogies (delivered in an expertly deadpan fashion) had the audience in stitches, whilst Alice’s flights of fancy (usually directed at dead or sleeping characters) were thoughtful and rather beautiful. The simple staging also suited the surreal, whimsical feel of the story, with the soft lighting and gentle wind creating a dreamlike atmosphere in the White Bear’s small auditorium.

Special mention in the cast must go to Gregory Finnegan, who brought a charming vulnerability and yet sharp wit to the role of Henry, and Paul Hayward, who expertly conveyed airman Dumas’s confusion at being simultaneously dead and yet alive. Clare Fraenkel was also a sweet, spirited Alice, tinged with an underlying hint of sadness, and Damien Tracey was clearly enjoying himself as the grumpy, cynical Edward.

Towards the end of the second half the narrative becomes a little confusing, as the fantasy element of the story takes over the narrative and the number of dead/alive characters increases. Nevertheless, overall this is a funny and enjoyable play, that asks interesting questions about love and loneliness in an unusual, imaginative way. Hurry along and see it before it closes on Sunday!

4 stars out of 5 ✭✭✭✭

Review by Emma Curry