Sometimes I go to a show and write nothing down in the little book that marks me as critic as clearly as a floppy white hat says chef. Bursting Into Flames, starring Martin Dockery, is one of these shows, and this is always a mark of the greatest distinction.
This play sees Dockery take some interesting steps with his storytelling craft, moving away from what’s lately been his bread-and-butter strategy of humorous heartfelt true-ish stories into a more fictional/dramatic mode. On the whole, this is an excellent choice, and works well for Dockery, who has given himself the opportunity to show off more of his skills as an actor, which seems more natural for him in two-handers than solo shows. But lets move away from comparison with other of Dockery’s work, and focus on this one.
The staging is simple; a chair and a few lighting changes providing all the adornments to the vivid physical, vocal, and linguistic performance that is Dockery’s staple. Magnetic gesture and an entrancing story immerse the audience in the rather unusual world occupied by the character, as we are slowly and inexorably drawn toward questioning his reliability as a narrator, and perhaps also his sanity (can the residents of heaven have their sanity called into question?).
This is a rather straightforward tale told in compelling complication by a character fighting an endless rear-guard against the glaring truth. In hindsight, I can see the tenuous desperation of the character was developed from the beginning of the piece, but in a subtle manner that encourages further curiosity, rather than predictability or boredom. The script here is endlessly suggestive, and the fragile narrative built by Dockery’s character crumbles with impeccable pace.
I always find it challenging to write about a Dockery play, because I so thoroughly do not want to spoil a single moment of discovery for his future audiences. Get your tickets in advance: he’s sure to sell out.