A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky, Lyric Hammersmith, London

4.00

A case where three heads are better than one

The end of the world is nigh. In three weeks' time, the planet will be engulfed by the cosmic equivalent of a geological fault-line. This is no man-made disaster, just a terminal catastrophe for mankind – flash-in-the-pan creatures who can uniquely reflect on their capacity for reflection and now have the honour of knowing that they are going to die not merely individually but as a job lot.

Given this scenario, a dramatist might be tempted to wax portentous, opting to view the unfolding endgame from extreme perspectives – whether political or existential.

Premiered in a beautifully acted and emotionally eloquent production by Sean Holmes, this play by a trio of leading dramatists (David Eldridge, Robert Holman and Simon Stephens) aims to push to a level further than any of the writers could have reached in separation. Yet one of the things they have jointly preserved is a salutary sense of proportion. Some of the best moments here are blessed with the grace of a gently subversive humour. As the characters bicker and battle towards hard-won wisdom, there are no Damascene lightning bolts or grandly definitive summations. The authorial pulling-together would seem to mirror the difficult achievement of the characters who eventually manage to bear witness to the reciprocal significance of their lives without being wise-before-the-event or invulnerable (through drink or pills) to last-minute experience.

A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky focuses on the tortuously dysfunctional Benton clan who gradually converge on the family farm in the North-east. There are five sons who range from Nigel Cooke's pained, 50-year-old William (who, furnishing a deadline-within-a-deadline, is about to die of colon cancer) to Harry McEntire's delectably portrayed Philip, a 14-year-old, near-miraculous afterthought who is just awakening to wet dreams and gay desires that he knows, with a kind of rueful resignation, he will never be able to flesh out. Prompted by family memoirs, this lad has spectral out-of-time encounters with crucial figures from the more distant past. In one of these, he is left literally holding the baby that was his mother, while his maritally abused young grandmother has adulterous sex with a German refugee. Ambiguous like much else in the piece, her actions are both understandable and unfortunate in that they set up a recurrent pattern of maternal neglect.

The play eschews easy sentiment but also has no truck with the sentimentality of cynicism. People do their (limited) best. In a lovely, largely wordless sequence, Ann Mitchell's fiercely repining matriarch tenderly bathes the naked, dying William. There's a heart-twisting moment when Philip, having revealed his sexualilty, places a shy hand of solidarity on the leg of William, who, at 50, is likewise, though for different reasons, a virgin. Philip's new-found nephew, the also adolescent but straight Roy (excellent Rupert Simonian) allows Philip to stroke his cheek and wishes he could let him do more.

The piece continues to expand in your mind and heart afterwards as you enjoy what the characters definingly lack:a future.



To 5 June (0871 221 1729)

Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn