In Flame

Previewed 30 August 2000, Opened 6 September 2000, Closed 28 October 2000 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London

Anna Mackmin's acclaimed production of Charlotte Jones' new play In Flame in London for a limited season

Hearts catch flame as family stories and secrets merge, and past and present collide.

London 2000: 36 year-old Alex has it all - good looks, a great job and loyal friends. But she also has a neurotic flatmate, a mother who doesn't know who she is, and a married lover who deals in futures but lives in the present. Is life really so sweet?

Yorkshire 1908: Alex's ancestors, naive Clara and her passionate sister Livvy, escape the surveillance of their bible-thumping grandmother and fall under the spell of a wayward heartbreaker.

In Flame comes into London's West End following an acclaimed run at the Bush Theatre on London's Fringe last year which won Charlotte Jones the 1999 Critics' Circle Award for 'Most Promising Playwright'.

The cast features Kerry Fox, Marcia Warren and Jason Hughes with Rosie Cavaliero, Emma Dewhurst and Ivan Kaye. Directed by Anna Mackmin with choreography by Scarlett Mackmin, designs by Tom Pye, lighting by Jenny Kagan and music by Andy Cowton.

"I loved this show when it opened at the Bush in January last year. But though director, designer and many of the cast remain the same, the production seems to have grown weaker rather than stronger on its transfer to the West End. Despite some fine performances, the acting often seemed edgy and over-emphatic on the first night. A newcomer to the show, the film actress Kerry Fox, almost entirely fails to capture the warmth and poignancy of her character, and Tom Pye's dull and unevocative design seems impoverished in a West End venue. Nevertheless I remain convinced that Jones is a talented writer to watch. At best, this is a highly original work that deftly mixes past and present, comedy and pain, haunting stage poetry and enjoyably crude jokes... Unfortunately, Anna Mackmin's staging of In Flame catches fire only fitfully. It's a fringe production that can't quite cut it in the West End." The Daily Telegraph

"It was first seen a year ago in the warm intimacy of the Bush Theatre, where its generous spirit and quirky humour were widely admired. Transferred to the West End now and plonked on a proscenium stage with some key, ill-advised cast changes and a cold, anonymous set, it begins to look more than a shade exposed. Charlotte Jones's talent for mercurial shifts between poignant wisdom and the world of Norman Wisdom, the down-to-earth and the mystical, survives the move. But the magnification process has the effect of making the contemporary material feel even more wilfully twisted to fit a preordained (and dated) pattern... It was Tom Stoppard, in Arcadia, who set the trend for these oscillating dramas. But his play, in its toings and froings, set up an imaginative resistance to the idea of entropy, a concept that one of his 19th-century characters precociously hit upon. The form of Arcadia was a poetic rebuke to a universe drifting without point in one direction only. By contrast, the shuttlings in plays like In Flame feel parochial, and despite the statutory sparks of hope at the end, unduly pessimistic." The Independent

"There was a period early last year when new plays by the actress-turned-playwright Charlotte Jones kept turning up in non-West-End circumstances - on Radio 4, on the London fringe, in leading theatres in the north. One of these was In Flame, which made a wonderful first impression at the Bush Theatre last January: poignant, poetic, deeply affecting. One wordless, bizarre, and adorable episode - the fantasy tap-dance by Marcia Warren as the dying Annie, a brilliant blend of timing, skill, and suggestion - has stayed bright in memory ever since. Now In Flame has transferred to the West End, and it still feels utterly original... The great performance remains Marcia Warren's, as both Gramma (1908) and Annie, by turns the funniest, most repressive, most unkind and most lit-from-within role of all. You can feel how this actor reins back all the scenes she is in to their most truthful essence. The opposite, however, is Kerry Fox, a newcomer to the cast, who, as Alex, seems always forced, ill at ease, insincere. There are now moments - as there were not before - when the wit of Jones's writing sounds glibly neat, and when its sentiment tips towards sentimentality. These buts by no means sink the play. Warren's tap-dance is as brilliant a feat - so hilarious, so unexpected - of expressive rhythm in a big theatre as it was in the Bush's upstairs room. The West End feels at once a larger place because of the breath of oddity and imagination and feeling that In Flame brings to it." The Financial Times

In Flame in London at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 30 August 2000, opened on 6 September 2000 and closed on 28 October 2000