Kissed by a Flame (Pleasance Theatre)

Posted: February 4, 2023 in Theatre

Photo: Liam Fraser Richardson

Writer: Simon Perrott

Director: James Callàs Ball


Condensing 11 years of grieving into 70 minutes of catharsis, Simon Perrott’s one-act play Kissed by a Flame is a deeply personal account of the pain of losing a loved one and the process of healing afterwards. The writer describes the play as autobiographical, paying tribute in the programme to his partner, who died in 2007.

Director James Callàs Ball’s production is performed, somewhat inappropriately, in a cabaret room; “death is a cabaret old chum” could spring to mind in an attempt to detract from the gloom on stage. Jamie (Ian Leer) and Teddy (Andrew Lancel) were in a relationship for as long as they have been parted when the play begins. Jamie is the type who is always burying his head in the sand, Teddy had been the one to yank it out, so, when Jamie needs to reconcile himself with the past in order to move on with his life, it is the imagined appearance of Teddy that forces him to read an old diary.

The diary covers the final months of the couple’s life together, from Teddy’s diagnosis of oesophagus cancer to his passing. Perrott tells us almost nothing about the characters’ wider lives together or separately, keeping the play focussed narrowly on Jamie’s ongoing trauma and his times with Teddy during illness. Impeccably acted, the partnership, tactile and affectionate, has a moving romantic quality, always overshadowed by the knowledge of tragedy.

The set, designed by Jack Valentine, is a white circular revolving stage with a double bed, draped in white linen at its centre. This gives an ethereal feel to what had been the couple’s living space, suiting the unworldly presence of Teddy. Perrott articulates Jamie’s feelings of loss, helplessness and guilt with admirable clarity, having revealed that he is drawing from personal experience and seeing writing the play as part of his journey to recovery.

When Teddy’s ghost thanks Jamie for all the shared laughter during his final days, it feels as if the writer is inviting himself to introduce some comedy, much needed to relieve the play’s relentlessly mournful tone. Regrettably, the invitation is declined, but, nonetheless, this morbid romance leaves its mark for being heartfelt and truthful.

Performance date: 3 February 2023

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