Vault Festival preview: Fireworks

Welcome to another Vault Festival preview. Fireworks, by Alex Robins, plays in the Cavern on 14-15 March. It is directed by Jack Bradfield and performed by Gráinne O’Mahony and James Murphy-Stephens.

Fireworks is an experimental piece of new writing exploring the dichotomy of whether the connections we make in life form through fate, or are random events in a chaotic universe … this is a story about love, faith and the science behind CERN’s Large Hadron Collider”.

Alex tells us a bit more about the production, which can be booked on the Vault Festival website.

A play about the Large Hadron Collider is quite ambitious! What gave you the idea for it?

AR: I’m not a scientist (any of my school teachers will tell you that) but I do think Science is very very cool. 

The show started as a short play written for an event called ‘Down Stage Night’ at the Exeter Phoenix. Shortly after, I was supported by the Theatre Royal Plymouth to write a full length version for the Plymouth Fringe.

This is where the Large Hadron Collider entered the equation. I had a story of two people meeting for the first time, with potentially explosive consequences – and felt like the travel of protons in the LHC was a perfect mirroring plotline. 

My knowledge of this was, at the time, probably the same as you – a memory of the media storm in 2012, predictions of black holes leading to everyone in the classroom watching a clock. Newspaper front pages declaring the end of the world because of a machine in Switzerland, that has no chance of being stopped.

During the R+D period last Autumn, I researched further – talking to CERN scientists and online conspiracy theorists. This juxtaposition is at the heart of the show. 

Fireworks is described as an experimental piece of new writing: what should audiences expect who come to see it?

AR: I wanted to convey the process of research, and the experience of learning about the science/conspiracy, so the show flips between a more linear narrative in 2008 and a pair of simultaneous livestreams in 2012.

I’m interested in having these ideas clash, as at some points the audience may have to pick a side to listen to. The choice of complex fact versus attractive fiction hopefully parallels the way we’re delivered information in 2020, particularly within news and politics. 

The play is also partially set at a music festival, so expect dancing! (And maybe a few fireworks 😉 )

Alex Robins. Courtesy of @FireworksShow.
Alex Robins. Courtesy of @FireworksShow.

What’s been your experience of Vault Festival so far, and how are you planning to use the Cavern space?

AR: Vault Festival is amazing! I travelled up from Plymouth last weekend and have been trying to watch as many shows as I can. They’ve all been incredible – my faves so far have been work.txt and She is a Place Called Home‘. 

We’re using the Cavern in-the-round (of two semicircles), with the audience choosing a side at the start of the show. I’m excited to see how the show feels in the space, having now been in a couple of different Cavern audience configurations myself.

You are a founder of the Narwhal Ensemble. What’s next for them?

AR: We’re a big company (sometimes nine!) and work in the structure of being able to have our own projects, then coming together to devise new shows.

Since performing in the Theatre Royal Drum last year with our show ‘2021’ we’ve had two of the Narwhals head off to University, and another two have started Masters courses. We’ll let everyone know on our social media channels when we’re teaming up again. 

What’s the best thing about being involved in a small-scale production like Fireworks?

AR: For me, it’s been getting to work with the amazing team. It’s been so inspiring to be writing in the room with Jack Bradfield (Director), Gráinne O’Mahony, James Murphy Stevens (Performers) and our Dramaturg Jim Newton bringing each draft to life. 

My thanks to Alex, and remember you can catch Fireworks on 14-15 March at 6.20pm, plus an additional Sunday matinee at 3.20pm.