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REVIEW: Wildfire Road @ Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres

I didn’t know what to expect from Wildfire Road, a new play written by Eve Leigh and directed by Sheffield-born Laura Keefe, but it turned out to be a rollercoaster hour of brilliant theatre that I’d wholeheartedly recommend.

As you share the (literal) ups and downs of a hijacked flight to Tokyo with some of its passengers and crew, the bigger picture starts to emerge alongside each individual’s hopes and dreams – one of the most impressive things about this play was how much it managed to say in such a short space of time.

Mark Weinman (as Dave) and the company in Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray. A group of people look up to the sky, unsure and hopeful.

Mark Weinman (as Dave) and the company in Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray.

Equal parts hilarious and horrifying, Wildfire Road moved so deftly between comedy, nail-biting tension and moments of real emotion that there wasn’t a single lull as the story built towards a thrilling and ultimately joyful resolution.

The short format, small cast – just six actors, some of whom alternated with two other roles – and intimate space of the Playhouse at The Crucible all served to heighten the sense of urgency and immediacy.

Phoebe Naughton (as Mariella) in Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray. Phoebe stands behind a window and holds their hands on their hips, biting their lip. Above, a screen reads MARIELLA.

Phoebe Naughton (as Mariella) in Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray.

A clever set design, featuring plane seats that swivelled so the actors could talk directly to each other and the audience, as well as a cockpit that switched between transparent and opaque to focus your attention on different areas of the stage, really gave you the feeling of being right there on the plane.

The lighting and sound design, by Amy Mae and Benjamin Grant respectively, used minimal but evocative effects to recreate sensations like the take off and the impression of wildfires raging below incredibly effectively.

The company of Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray. People scream and shout in the aisle of an aeroplane. They face outwards, holding their arms up as they yell. The plane is lit up in red.

The company of Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray.

One of my favourite elements in this surprising and thoroughly entertaining play was music, employed at key moments to break – or occasionally increase – the tension. This involved singing and other choreographed movement from the actors; the surreal combination of flight protocols and jazz hands was a bold move but the audience loved it!

You couldn’t help but laugh which made the twists all the more effective as everyone was shocked back into silence. This perhaps wouldn’t have worked so well if the actors hadn’t been able to present such believable characters, who had us all rooting for everything to work out and enjoying their company along the way.

Mark Weinman (as Dave) in Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray. Mark wears a yellow and black shirt and sits in an aeroplane chair. Haze rises up around them and in the background, a fellow passenger looks at them.

Mark Weinman (as Dave) in Wildfire Road. Photo by Helen Murray.

From ecological disaster and time travel to human relationships and reactions, Wildfire Road presents an ambitious story in a thought-provoking yet fun and accessible way. With only a two week run here in Sheffield, don’t sleep on getting your tickets!

Wildfire Road’s run at The Crucible’s Playhouse stretches until Saturday 18th March, and tickets are available here. 




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