Fireworks at #61 The Etcetera

A sometimes damagingly mythologised condition, Prader-Willi Syndrome is little known and little understood. It’s easy for the affected child to become an ‘other’, and to be seen as merely a sufferer of the condition rather than a complete person. In her new play Fireworks, Valerie Jack contextualises the difficulties of living with Prader-Willi Syndrome within the daily routine of 15 year old Katie and her parents. When Alex,a documentary film maker, comes to stay, we learn not only about the physical problems of Katie’s condition, but the invasive inquisitiveness of others that she has to deal with. Jack provides us with an intimate insight into Katie’s life, and we feel like we leave the play with at least a partial understanding of something we previously had little idea about.

Simon Desborough is unassuming yet convincing in his portrayal of Alex, who we come to learn has fallen on hard times. He allows his emotional dilemmas to implode whilst staying with Katie and her parents, and treads just the wrong side of the personal-professional line. His relationship with Claire, Katie’s mother, is compellingly written and drawn out, and exacerbates the precarious tension within this mother-daughter relationship. Natalie Wilcox subtly and sympathetically plays out the mixed blessing of caring for her daughter, and the slowly developing affair between her and Alex is so realistically played we feel almost like voyeurs.

Bethan Knight succeeds in her portrayal of Katie as a well-rounded character, and not just profiling her condition, and it’s this that makes Fireworks really tick. With understated yet sensitive and sustained performances all round, this is one of the best fringe shows I’ve seen for a while. Although sometimes image-heavy, Jack’s writing is both ambitious and motivated, and effectively depicts the quiet troubles of this ordinary family.

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