The struggle to come to terms with loss on both a personal and national level is explored by Barney Norris in his new play Nightfall (Bridge Theatre), directed by Laurie Sansom.
Set in rural Hampshire, the drama centres on a family crippled by bereavement. Siblings Ryan and Lou are mourning the death of their father but together with their formidable mother Jenny and Lou's on-off boyfriend Pete they're also haunted by an episode of madness that has major repercussions for all of them. When Pete reappears flush with money from his job at an oil refinery and wants to take Lou away with him to Dubai, Jenny fights to hold her children to the life she planned for them.
Norris here focuses on people trying desperately to cling to their dreams and some semblance of individuality and at the same time provides a requiem for the vanishing, rustic culture. Every relationship in the play is awkward, coloured by anxieties about duty, money, truth and inheritance. But the characterisation is rather shallow, lacking both breadth and depth. Furthermore, the plot takes a while to really get going – the first half seems slight and over-extended, but then we become more caught up in the characters and the predicaments they face.
Rae Smith's striking set is dominated by a giant stretch of raised oil pipeline that runs diagonally across the stage and shimmers when the sun dips.(Pete and Ryan initially concoct a plan to siphon off small amounts of oil from the pressurised pipeline in order to offset the rising debts of their near fallow farm). This rural backyard space is complete with grassy lawn, flowerpots, a beach chair and picnic table.
Claire Skinner is a touching, yet at times rather too prim, Jenny, combining a feckless disregard for the farm's future with a manipulative cunning when it comes to hanging on to her two children. Olivia Lovibond manages to convey the confusion of a young woman aching to escape from a routine job and a derelict farm, while Sion Daniel Young and Ukweli Roach as Ryan and Pete respectively catch the troubled nature of an unequal male friendship.
A slow start then, but in the end a thought-provoking study in grief, heartbreak and betrayal.
Runs until Saturday 26 May 2018 at the Bridge Theatre, London.Last modified: April 6, 2021