'A triumph from a fresh new playwright'
Written by Barney Norris – a young playwright only just entering his 30's and already seeing success with his hard-hitting narratives of the vulnerability of humanity – Nightfall is a story of a family struggling to deal with the recent death of the family patriarch.
It starts with two friends Pete (Ukweli Roach) and Ryan (Sion Daniel Young) drilling a hole into the back-garden pipe, siphoning oil out of it into a large vessel. This illegal activity causes mixed feelings bubbling below to resurface, as it marks Pete’s return to the lives of the family after being absent, forcing them to think about the direction of their futures.
All of Nightfall takes place in the garden of the family farm, as optimistic and faithful son Ryan tries to comfort everyone’s grief, especially his mother, while straining to deal with the loss himself. Ophelia Lovibond plays Lou, the daughter who has returned home to the family farm she hates so much so that they can grieve together, and she is particularly brilliant, acting out a wide spectrum of emotions on stage with an authentic delivery.
After the first couple of scenes, it is apparent that mother Jenny (Claire Skinner) is clinging onto the past as she watches the life she used to know slowly slip away from her. It is a focal point in the play and the audience observes as she keeps all of her children’s old school stuff regularly getting it out to look at, listens only to music of her younger days whilst reminiscing, and fears change, latching onto her daughter who is sliding from her grasp and back into the arms of her former lover and family friend Pete.
There is a clear clash of generations in Nightfall. Barney Norris gives an insightful exploration into the limited choices for the future of this generation in opposing ways, with siblings Lou and Ryan and with their mother not being willing to understand. Even without knowing anything about the playwright, it is clear watching that this is a young writer who had millennial choices in mind when penning the story.
Nightfall is character-driven and relies on excellent performances from the small cast, as opposed to an intricate plot, but it will make you think, and it is a triumph from a fresh new playwright.
Reviewed by Alice Bzowska.