Aithne is a child prodigy, a natural born artist from a very young age, who paints images based on stories told to her by God. Until one day, God stops sharing, sparking a crisis of faith. Aithne is left with no faith in herself or her abilities independent of God’s direct inspiration and she doesn’t know what to do with herself if she isn’t God’s little artist. When she’s arrested and thrown in lock-up, she finds a surprising kindred spirit in her cell neighbour, going through his own crisis of faith in his chosen career.
A Little Fire is a mixed bag. The prison scenes and connection between Aithne and Roy were well-realized and engaging, but those between Aithne and her father felt stilted and chichéd without adding much to move the story forward in a way that justified their length. The scenes with the homeless woman were more affecting than those with the father, they at least felt more important to Aithne learning about herself (and not just the audience learning about her), but it was still the scenes in the prison and those interactions and storytelling that were the most compelling and left me feeling: more of this please.
The ending of A Little Fire, left me wanting. (Or confused.) Without spoiling anything, Aithne’s journey felt unrealized. There was no sense that Aithne learned anything new or found any of the answers she was looking for through her encounter with Roy. Roy, we could believe was changed by his experience, but Aithne?
But then, those middle bits, the dialogue between Aithne and Roy, the story-telling they share, were funny, polished, and well played and absorbing.
The text, for its strengths and weaknesses is supported by an overall strong cast. Carol Sinclair does well with several characters in the show, most notably the troubled homeless woman with whom naive Aithne becomes fast friends. Johnny Wideman takes on the role of drunken Roy, going through his own deep crisis of faith. His drunkenness initially comes off as over the top, but then, that’s drunkenness, and it quickly finds its rhythm in the show. He plays a strong contrast to Aithne’s youthful innocence in the next cell over. And Emily Bozik, on stage the full show, brings a youthful joy and liveliness to this young girl trying to find her place in the world.
A Little Fire is largely enjoyable show that seeks to provide some food for thought. As a new work, it’s a show that will likely see more growth through this or future runs and so will be interesting to see where it goes from here.