Review - Barney Norris' Nightfall at the Bridge Theatre
First of all, serious kudos to the Bridge Theatre - the brand-new theatre founded on the South Bank by the artistic and executive director duo who previously ran the National, Nick Hytner and Nick Starr - for including in their inaugural season a brand new play that's not driven by a star writer or star cast, relying instead just on the strength of its writing and characterisations. But it is, at the same time, hard not to feel that this is the sort of play they once would have programmed for the National's Dorfman that has wandered into the Lyttelton.
It's a small, intimate and intense domestic family drama for just four characters, and there are times when it feels a little exposed on this expansive stage. Not that designer Rae Smith hasn't filled it: a giant oil pipeline cuts right across the rural farm that a bereaved widow and her two adult children are still running, and there's even a full size tractor onstage too.
That pipeline is a sign of the irrevocable compromises her late farmer husband made to help the farm survive, but even now her daughter has been working for a company who are turning farmlands into sites for property development. Engulfed in debt, the family is seemingly powerless to stop the changes being forced upon them.
Initially a slow simmer of a play, it gradually boils over into an evening of dark revelations, the overpowering nature of grief and not wanting to let go. The mother, so desperate to cling onto her daughter who will threaten anything to stop her moving to Dubai with her boyfriend, is played with a wary, poignant but desperately selfish sense of self-preservation by Claire Skinner. Ophelia Lovibond and Sion Daniel Young bring a delightfully unselfconscious spirit of caring yet also needing to escape her bonds to her offspring. The quartet is completed by Ukweli Roach as the son's closest friend who has also dated the daughter.
Nightfall Tickets are available now.
Photo credit Manuel Harlan