What I love about Owl & Cat Theatre productions is their audacity to present works that confront the complexities of human interaction and go deeper. Their latest play, Tinderbox, explores the intricacies of two people embroiled in a situation that, up close, can be difficult to decipher when flailing around in the midst of it.
Tinderbox is a new play by American playwright Allan Hayhurst and has been skilfully directed by Thomas Ian Doyle, who also did lighting, sound, and set design to great effect. Tinderbox contains elements you rarely see in a theatre production: violence, nudity, sex scenes, and coarse language—just the ingredients for an authentic look at how real life can play out in a confusing game of blame, jealousy, delusion, and control.
Tinderbox @ Owl & Cat, Richmond
Alice (Fiona Scarlett) and Cameron (Khisraw Jones-Shukoor) convincingly embody a couple who battle with their personal issues in love within their self-created arena of "Us against the world." The 'honeymoon phase' involving cute flirtation, giggles, fun, lust, and great moments in bed, fizzles out against a backdrop of insecurity and fear. Within their love bubble, they end up battling one another in a desperate attempt to feel validation for their worthiness of love. But is it love? All couples fight, but where is the line when violence features in a relationship and at what point do things turn toxic and evolve into a pattern that eventually becomes normal? Is violence ever ok?
The play cleverly ties events from the past into the story via a projected video montage on the wall, which reveals the chequered life of Alice, who has also been diagnosed with a mental condition. She determines her abusive past and subsequent condition to be the cause of her problems, but this also allows her to avoid taking responsibility for her present behaviour, thereby perpetuating a victim mentality. Cameron, less experienced in hardship, abuse, and love, finds her experiences a cause for resentment and jealousy, leading him to blame Alice for her situation and turn against her when they engage in fighting. Alice certainly plays her part in the violence, often pushing too far, but Cameron's physical power ultimately dominates.
After one bout, Cameron claims that her injured wrist is "Just a deep bruise." Alice, pausing to call the cops, states "You're the man. They always blame the man."
Manipulation and fear run rampant through this couple's affair as they both wrangle for what they want: simply to love and be loved.
With violence against women becoming a larger part of our social discourse, this issue is an appropriate one to address. It is dealt with truthfully and the actors epitomise the warts and all reality of a couple seeking self-worth through the love of the other.
Tinderbox @ Owl & Cat, Richmond
Tinderbox does an excellent job of exploring the theme of violence and love, nuanced brilliantly with the difficult and confusing reality of blame and insecurity that often riddles relationships that are not based on mutual trust.
Go and see this riveting exposé on violence and love, and support independent theatre.