Review: For All the Fires Not Yet Lit, at AMATA

Catherine Ireton, winner of the Brighton Fringe Music Award, performs the story of a very timid bride-to-be.

Portfolio artist Catherine Ireton is a delightful performer, and winner of the Brighton Fringe Music Award 2016. Her beautifully lyrical play, For All The Fires Not Yet Lit, is the funny yet tender story of Claire, a very timid bride-to-be who is overwhelmed by worries about her wedding, and determined she will not be standing up to make a speech. We follow her on an unintentional twenty-four-hour journey of tiny achievements as she pushes through her fears and finds her courage.

Using song, music and spoken word, Catherine tells the tale through narration and character dialogue. The rhythmic spoken verse is as much of a pleasure to listen to as Catherine’s gorgeous singing voice, which is warm and pure with that quality that invites you in and makes you want to stay a while.

The background music, subtle scene-specific sounds, and lighting are used effectively, evoking different moods, changing the pace, taking us to various places, and enhancing character traits; they are all that is needed, along with the minimalist set – just an old-fashioned table and a few other, very tiny, very cute, props – to enhance the visuals Catherine paints with her words.

There is an honesty in Catherine’s performance; moving seamlessly between roles, changes in stance, voice, facial expression, and body language bring to life easily distinguishable characters that are real, enjoyable, and recognisable in our own lives. Nicely paced and with a mix of emotion and humour, we can empathise with the main character as easily as we laugh at others, and at Claire’s inner critic berating her in a voice hilariously far removed from her own. Again, scarily familiar.

With a strong enough a character arc that we want to see every bit of Claire’s progress, Catherine keeps us with her to the end. Her stage presence is charming and very inclusive, and her connection with the audience is enhanced further with the odd topical comment.

When it came time to invite the audience into the singing, subtly becoming part of a scene, this easy connection made it feel natural. The scene, which was unexpectedly and beautifully depicted in shadows, and drew surprised murmurs of appreciation from the audience, was one of the highlights. A lovely and original idea.

The story finishes on the title song, a beautiful piece and a satisfying reinforcement of Claire’s small but very important progress towards confidence and happiness, which we are all now heavily invested in.

For All The Fires Not Yet Lit is a very engaging story, which cleverly catches our emotions with the very ordinary struggles of a very ordinary person, and leaves us to consider our vulnerability and any yet unlit sparks in ourselves.  

Written and performed by Catherine Ireton
Conceived and developed with Gavin Stride
Directed by Joanna Bowen
Musical Direction by Ed Briggs
Produced by Farnham Maltings

by Carina Stone