Sunday, 20 May 2018

Nightfall - Bridge Theatre



Now onto its third production, Bridge Theatre has already established itself as a key player in London’s theatre scene. For Laurie Sansom’s production of Barney Norris’s play Nightfall, the versatile space takes on another set-up, this time electing a thrust stage, forcing the family dynamic out into the audience.

Depicting a once idyllic farmhouse and garden, which is now bearing the weight of the family and industry’s struggle to persevere with farming as a financially and psychologically sustainable livelihood, Rae Smith’s set design is immediately alluring. Cutting right across the stage, through the garden, just skimming the edge of the farmhouse, is an imposing, ugly oil pipe. As we come to learn, this pipeline is not only integral to the plot but symbolic of many of the play’s themes and character struggles. This is heightened by Smith’s stunning backdrop, contrasting the monstrous line of steel with a horizon and sky painted in a myriad of colours, all bleeding into the next. As day falls to night, the shades of the backdrop transition accordingly.  

Nightfall is slow-paced to start, perhaps overspending on establishing character, though this does have its merits later on. The once idyllic farm is home to a family of three, who recently lost their father. Sion Daniel Young portrays the struggle of Ryan, the son, who is trying to keep a farm alive, upholding the legacy his father left behind. Having already flown the nest once, his sister Lou, played by Ophelia Lovibond, is similarly struggling with the oppressive atmosphere of their family home, working for a local property developer to escape for eight hours a day. Claire Skinner presents their mother, Jenny, whose charisma is at first the cause of much of the laughter, before spiraling into a destructive force, threatening to bring down the roof of their fragile family unit. Whether seen as the voice of reason, or the outsider to break apart what is left of the family, Ukweli Roach brings us Peter, an ex of Lou and friend of Ryan, who was once an integral part of their dynamic.

Though it contributes to the lengthy opening, Norris’s naturalistic and conversational dialogue is one of the play’s strengths, excelling in its ability to convey astute human awkwardness and glimpses of sentiments his characters desperately try to conceal. As the play unravels and the characters drag their true feelings closer to the surface, Norris offers a fair representation of all, primarily positioning grief as the root cause of malicious behaviour.

Nightfall is a play about struggle. A struggle with grief, a struggle to keep a farm afloat in a depleting economic landscape, and a struggle between family responsibility and the desire to pave a life of one’s own. While the ending does seem fall off at a slight angle, it is certainly preferable to a forced conclusion, attempting to offer an absolute solution to the dilemmas these individuals face.

Nightfall is playing at Bridge Theatre until 26th May.


*I was gifted this ticket in exchange for a review, but all words and opinions are my own.
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