The Theatreguide.London Review
The Night Alive
Donmar Theatre Summer 2013
Hard on the heels of the Donmar's revival of Conor McPherson's first big success The Weir comes his newest play, directed by the playwright. Sad to say, The Night Alive does not have very much of The Weir's power, either in atmosphere or storytelling.
Tommy, not a young man, earns a living of sorts doing odd jobs with his mate Doc and lives in a cluttered room in the house owned by his uncle Maurice. The play opens with Tommy having just rescued Aimee from being beaten up by her boyfriend.
She stays the night, and the night after, and while neither of them is the sort for Love's Young Romance, some sort of friendly relationship is developing. But then the boyfriend appears, there's some violence, they consider running off to Finland, and Tommy is left at the end not appreciably better or worse off than he was at the start, but just someplace a little different.
McPherson's observation seems to be that people like this do not have grand adventures or even significant moves up or downward, but just little jogs to the left or right.
But it takes a playwright with the special talent of Chekhov or (a few steps down) William Inge to let us see what's happening when nothing seems to be happening or make the little stories of little people engrossing, and you are likely to spend much of The Night Alive wondering why you're being told this story and what you're meant to feel about it.
The director-author is presumably getting the production he wants here, and Soutra Gilmour's set captures the almost-squalor that a man living alone is likely to slip into.
Caoilfhionn Dunne's Aimee hints at the ageing street kid, Michael McElhatton's Doc provides mild comic relief and Brian Gleeson makes the ex a dangerously coiled spring.
But only Ciaran Hinds as Tommy and, in his brief appearances, Jim Norton as Maurice create characters we can feel anything for. Otherwise, the play, production and performances just do not invite us in enough to care.