Nightfall is the part of the day when the sun goes down and the stars begin to appear. Young new writer Barney Norris has created a work that pinpoints a major crisis that has swept the nation. He writes the piece, ‘Ransom Note’ in the Bridge Theatre’s programme notes, which has tropes of a socio-political manifesto, that I deeply relate with. ‘We live in a country that has been stolen from its people.’ ‘The hijacked.’
Nightfall draws the removal of dreams and aspirations, or any hope of reaching for the stars, in a country that has dragged down many of its young people, and their chances of building the life they ever wanted. A troubled sister, Lou, and her naive brother, Ryan, have inherited their, recently passed, father’s farm. Their headstrong mother, Jenny, retains a brave face in an attempt to protect her family and her husband’s legacy. While Pete, Ryan’s best mate and Lou’s ex, returns to the family’s lives after 6 months of doing time.
The drama takes place at Bridge Theatre’s thrust stage that deliciously captures the countryside: the family’s little piece of earth and its untouched roots, free from the toxic air of the city. Rae Smith’s naturalistic setting takes the viewer away from Zone 1 for a peek of the simpler life, closer to the stars and moon, but it’s a life without material luxuries.
Chris Davey’s lighting designs work with a backdrop that watches the dawn set, turning crimson red, and the stars rise with music by Gareth Williams. Director Laurie Sansom intelligently stages her production in a way where no-one in the audience misses out on the action. She exposing their weaknesses and fears for all to see. Life stopped the moment Lou, Ryan and Jenny found out ‘dad’ was sick. As soon as he died their happiness diminished. Slowly, unwillingly to admit it, they all broke down.
Lou is the most vulnerable, yet she progresses the fastest and learns how to move on from grieving by facing her emotions, head on. Ophelia Lovibond champions the role of Lou with tears, conviction and tenderness. She paints Lou like a gentle onion that gradually sheds each layer of skin by opening herself up to new possibilities; leaving home, falling in love again and seeing the potential for a fresh start, in a new place, with Pete.
Ukweli Roach does a skilful job of presenting Lou’s loving companion and Ryan’s loyal friend. His best moment is when he lays into Jenny, which may seem aggressive, but it is sympathetically felt as he played victim to Jenny’s overarching schemes: for the family to own the deeds to the farm and for it to go off without a hitch.
One can easily pity Sion Daniel Young’s Ryan. Although not perfect, and fully aware of his weaknesses, Ryan is mild-mannered and consistently good as brother and son. Young gives an impressive performance of an equally broken young man. While Clare Skinner provides an adept interpretation of a stubborn and tactless mother. She has a strong, yet unjustified, contempt for Pete, but, as much as it is easier to hate her character, Skinner shows a powerless widow desperately struggling to keep her family together. She is also emotionally fragmented.
Despite the slow beginning in the first half, Nightfall’s dialogue is magnetic and manages to reel in viewers back into the middle of the farmland. Walking out of the Bridge Theatre, I felt an attachment to Norris’s characters. Nightfall is poignant, witty and engaging. You may cry or feel pensive about society’s current malaise: UK’s overpriced housing crisis and high unemployment rate, but this is sharp writing that has the power to surrender all five senses.
Nightfall is now showing at the Bridge Theatre until May 26. Click here to purchase tickets.