More Heat Than Light

In a well-paced, one-hour monologue, eighteen-year-old Alex talks about the generations of family who have had a significant impact upon his life. He takes on their personas, voices and quirky habits. There are friendly chats, raging arguments, encouraging words and outrageous behaviour; indeed all the things that might be expected from ordinary people who happen to be related to each other. It’s easy to identify with many of the scenarios: the ongoing feuds; the well-intentioned Christmas get-together that goes disastrously wrong; the outcast that keeps popping up and the need to cope with people on whom the years are taking their toll.

Ashley Hodgson relates the turbulent saga with youthful honesty, confusion and amazement

Writer/director Tom Titherington has used his own family’s history for much of this play’s content, making it an intimate and personal work. This is heightened by the choice of venue and the set. Although Kite Theatre is a company from Bristol it has chosen The London Theatre for its debut in the capital, as New Cross Road provides the setting for More Heat Than Light. The full house amounted to just over thirty people on the sides of a confined performance area facing an evocatively cluttered set structured to what in its day would probably have been referred to as the parlour. It had all the nuances of an old lady’s faded sitting room; neglected and dusty with boxes of memorabilia, an accommodating armchair, walls filled with framed black-and-white photos of local scenes and family members and a record player able to cope with the stack of ancient 78’s. During the course of the play the items were intricately woven into the storyline and given a resurrection.

Amongst all this decay Alex sits alone on the floor in pensive mood. He’s been up all night looking at photos, playing some old records and looking back over what he recalls and has been told about his family. In a few hours he’ll be at his Nan’s funeral, but for the moment he is overwhelmed by a sense of history and how it should be preserved. As he points out, “By next week this whole house will have been sold and all this’ll be in boxes, and in the future this’ll be some block or road or something and no one will remember unless I tell ‘em”. He tells us perhaps more than he should but he also wrestles with what to include or leave out should he ever come to write his family’s history.

Ashley Hodgson relates the turbulent saga with youthful honesty, confusion and amazement giving the sense that Alex sometimes cannot believe that he is part of this crazy family and that the things he relates really did happen. He gives a competent and sincere performance with appropriate undulations and accents as he brings various characters to life.

Is there more heat than light, though? For Alex there is the need to reconcile himself to the family he has inherited. For those on the outside looking in this is a momentarily interesting and moderately entertaining play but it neither poses questions that need answers nor presents matters to be angry about.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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★★★★
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Performances

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The Blurb

Eighteen-year-old Alex (Ashley Hodgson) sits alone in his grandparents’ old, decaying living-room on New Cross Road, the first person there in years. He’s been up all night, flicking through photos, listening to records, re-living the vibrant history that once occupied these walls. With a few hours until Nan’s funeral, Alex uses warmth energy and wit to guide the audience through the colourful tales of his ancestors, trying to reconcile the grand stories of the past with the difficult reality that dominated the end of her life. Based heavily on the writer’s real family history, and using detailed design, original music and a powerful central performance, More Heat Than Light provides a unique insight into a young person’s mind, exploring how our sense of history can shape our identity. 

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