Sunday, 13 May 2018

REVIEW: Nightfall at the Bridge Theatre

The patriarch dies and the son inherits the family farm out of tradition, pride, fear and resentment. The farm is failing and a developer wants to buy the land and turn it into a new housing estate. It’s a story that’s been told before, but what ‘Nightfall’ the latest production at ‘The Bridge Theatre’ so beautifully encapsulates; is the lengths we go to to please others at the cost of our own happiness. 

Siblings Lou and Ryan live on the family farm with their widowed mother Jenny. When Ryan’s best friend and Lou’s ex-lover Pete gets out of prison, he and Ryan come up with an idea to skim oil off the pipe that runs through their farm to sell on and save the foundering family business. However, when Jenny finds out about this plan she’s less than happy that the life she helped build with her husband is being forced in a new illegal direction away from their traditional roots.

What ‘Nightfall’ does so effortlessly is it dances around its own subject matter, almost trying to escape it as much as the characters are; but it’s as harsh and as unavoidable as that pipe running through the centre of their garden. At it’s core it is a piece about loss and how we as humans deal with grief on any level, be it death, livelihood, friendship or love. It forces us to confront the innate ownership we have over our own pain, and the way we inadvertently manipulate others to heal our wounds whilst selfishly hindering them from curing their own. 

Sion Daniel Young as Ryan wonderfully translates the struggle of a man who’s been born into a line of work he has no other option but to undertake. How can he be anything more if he’s always been told this is as good as he’ll be? Any hope of a better life has been stolen from him by the pressures of his mother and his need to keep financially safe. Young really masters the art of being able to make you laugh and bring you harshly back down to reality all within the space of a single breath. Pete struggles to find his place in this reality having lost all of his surrogate family to a degree. Ukweli Roach manages to flip so cleverly between the banter and the bile within Pete as a character, the love and hate he has for the family runs deep and the dynamic between him and Jenny is the crux of the action on a countdown timer ready to explode. Claire Skinner, breaks your heart as the mother desperately clinging onto the past in a vain hope that she can try and build a future in its image. Skinner’s portrayal of Jenny’s inner struggle with the generational divide and what the current world offers her children hits hard. A mother wanting what in her mind is best for her children, but it’s obvious to anyone else that she uses that as a guise to try and obtain what is only ever best for herself. That’s how she deals with her grief, keeping her husband alive by keeping everything else alive. The real instrument of power in this piece comes in the form of Ophelia Lovibond as Lou. Lovibond gives an exceptionally honest and open performance of a girl who longs to escape but all her life has been stuck by an overbearing mother and a troubled
relationship with a man she thought she couldn’t trust. Her ability to evoke emotion out of her many powerful speeches is natural and raw, she deals with grief like a sick disease that needs to be cut out of her and why we live in an unjust world where grief is too personal to matter to anyone else but ourselves. 

Rae Smith’s impressively realistic set brings us into the back garden of their farmhouse. Using real grass and foliage provides a natural and authentic landscape for the action to unfold upon. It creates an all encompassing intimacy that when coupled with Laurie Sansom’s gorgeously fluid direction seduces you into feeling completely at peace in their world. It’s this sense of familiarity that makes you feel like you’re intruding upon their private moments forcing you to come to terms with your own battles and It’s in the final moments where we see the ripple effect that each of their actions causes that we know that in the end; the past is for the dead and the future is for the living. 

Review by Ben Hipkiss

Rating: ★★★★★
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