Review: The Domino Heart, Finborough Theatre

“After all, my little one, our life is this moment. This one. Gone. In a heartbeat.”

‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ The mysteries of the heart have long enthralled songwriters but Canadian writer Matthew Edison has used this enduring fascination to fashion a most affecting play in the form of The Domino Heart. Three people sit on the stage of the Finborough as the show opens but they’re completely separate, isolated from one another and lost in the gravity of the situation that faces each of them. For though they are strangers, there is something that connects them, binding them together metaphysically even though they might not ever realise it.

‘Piece of my Heart’ Cara’s husband has been killed in a car crash and she is wracked with guilt for arguing with him just beforehand. Mortimer is a Reverend in his 70s whose fear of death is matched only by his fear of not having lived (and loved). And Leo is a brash corporate type whose only real pleasure comes from making money with the rest of life a pointless distraction to him. But as he takes his shirt off, we see that he has received a heart transplant and not only that, it is a domino heart, one which has been already rejected by a recipient and therefore has carried on down the chain. 

‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ Edison uses monologue almost exclusively to really ram home this theme of isolation, something that results from the choices we make in their self-destructiveness. So Amanda Hale’s urgently compelling Cara takes the blame fully on herself for her husband’s death, anguish tearing her apart in a deeply moving performance. Lawrence Werber’s Mort is still haunted by the missed opportunity for romance in his younger years, a bluff geniality not quite hiding his pain. And Rob Cavazos’ Leo prowls urgently around his room, increasingly bitter at the world that spat him out, spitting back in its face when he can.

‘Anyone Who Has A Heart’ The format precludes the kind of inter-relation between the characters that one thinks might emerge and it is a bold choice that plays up the more wrenching aspects of the human experience even as the light at the end of the tunnel finally does appear towards the end. Director Jane Jeffery does allow barely visible spiderweb connections to be drawn though, echoes of thought and movement providing spine-tingling moments in amongst the fiercely intense acting. Cavazos’ bracing physicality is impossible to drag one’s eyes from but Hale (such a boon to see her in a modern piece for once) is just exceptional here, a real tour-de-force.

‘My Heart Will Go On’ (how could I not…) This play sees the Finborough continue their excellent record in showcasing exciting new Canadian drama – last year’s Armstrong’s War was an absolute highlight of the year for me. And between The Domino Heart and Carthage, the Finborough are really setting the pace for some excellent theatre all round in 2014 – theatres in the fringe and West End alike should take note.

Running time: 85 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Oscar Blustin Photography

Programme cost: £2
Booking until 18th February

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