How do you move on from the death of the love of your life? Simon Perrott’s autobiographical play about love and grief explores this in its debut at The Pleasance.

Credit: Liam Fraser Richardson

Kissed by a Flame, directed by James Callas Ball, is told from the viewpoint of Jamie (Ian Leer) as he reads through his late partner Teddy’s (Andrew Lancel) diary. This day marks eleven years since Teddy’s death, but Jamie has yet to finish reading the diary. With the help of Teddy, whom Jamie talks to in his imagination, Jamie takes himself through the last eighteen months of Teddy’s life, reliving the fights, laughs, and laments.

Jack Valentine’s stage is beautifully set, with white sheets covering the walls and bed with a white duvet taking the center. With everything being white, the lighting effects (by Rebecca Lyon) are profound, a good choice as the different lightings coincided with the different chronological times of the play. While I love a rotating stage, they don’t utilize it, making it an unnecessary spectacle. There is a stereo in the corner, something that Jamie often goes to for comfort or distraction. There is a potential for music being a more prominent theme in the show, and I wish they would have developed it more.

Credit: Liam Fraser Richardson

I love the notion of the living conversing with the dead in their heads. To know someone so well you can imagine their responses is a beautiful thing and a very worthy concept to bring to the stage. The use of the diary to guide Jamie through his grieving process is a solid choice as it keeps the story linear, giving a clear transition from reliving the past to talking in the present. I appreciate how this is a story about a couple that happens to be gay and does not solely focus on their queerness.

Unfortunately, I saw very little chemistry between Jamie and Teddy. Maybe if they had established their relationship before Teddy’s tragic news, I would have been more invested in it. The actors weren’t very believable. Lancel in particular is very stiff. I would have understood if he gradually became more stiff as the cancer developed, but he remained inexplicably rigid for the entirety of the show. It was hard to believe the toll Teddy’s cancer takes on Jamie because Leer never lets his emotions overtake him. Both actors are very one-dimensional, which is a shame for a show that could be so emotional.

Credit: Liam Fraser Richardson

For a story so beautiful and heartfelt in theory, Kissed by a Flame did not quite pull my heartstrings enough for it to be especially moving or memorable. With a bit more rehearsing, it could bloom into something really special. It is on at The Pleasance until the 11th of February.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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