"Norris’s poignant study of rural decay"
-The Guardian-

"a requiem for a vanishing rustic culture"
-The Evening Standard-

"a quartet of strong performances"
-Time Out-

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'A triumph from a fresh new playwright'

Critic Rating

2 May 2018, Bridge Theatre
Alice Bzowska Alice Bzowska
When I entered the auditorium of the Bridge Theatre, my eyes were immediately drawn to the large pipe-like structure cutting its way across the back of the stage. I knew the basic premise of Nightfall and that it was set in the countryside on a family farm, so the way the industrial oil pipe and container dominated the set, juxtaposed with the grassy lawn sprawling out into the audience, intrigued me.

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.

Michael Billington
Good as Laurie Sansom’s production is on psychological detail, words sometimes get lost on the Bridge’s big stage. There is, however, no question about the quality of some fine performances. Claire Skinner is superb as Jenny.
Henry Hitchings
Images of division and detachment are underscored in Laurie Samson’s production, which is dominated by a giant stretch of raised oil pipeline — the most imposing feature of a design by Rae Smith that shimmers whenever the sun dips.
Andrzej Lukowski
This is largely done via the wondrous Skinner, magnificent as the petty, desperately frightened Jenny. Her elemental self-interest is breathtaking to behold - she’s not nasty per se, but her instincts are purely corrosive.
Mark Shenton
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.
Matt Trueman
You can't move for Brexit metaphors in Barney Norris' new play. There's the failing family farm split down the middle by a massive corporate oil pipe. There's the sun lounger sat on a lawn turned to mud.
The Stage
The line between style and staleness is slim. When does a writer’s style just become repetition, falling back on familiar themes and rhythms over and over again?
Dominic Cavendish
As a family drama, it’s pedestrian and unpersuasive. As a reflection on the pressures facing the rural community, it’s like an underwhelming episode of The Archers.