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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Night Season
Cottesloe Theatre   Summer-Winter 2004

Rebecca Lenkiewicz' new play takes you on what you think will be a familiar journey, but offers pleasant little surprises at almost every turn. And, while you end up not terribly far from where you began, the trip and the company have been well worth your time.

Her first surprise is that what seems like that old dramatic cliche, a dysfunctional Irish family, turns out to be not all that badly off at that.

Sure, Grandma is dying and a bit dotty, Father is drunk every night, Mother abandoned them all a decade ago, and the three adult daughters each have romantic problems.

But they clearly all love each other very much, all share a joy in life, and actually get along pretty well. Says father with sardonic cheer, 'There are no problems in this house, only disasters'.

Enter the obligatory catalyst, in this case an American actor in town to shoot a film and staying with them rather than at a hotel, to soak up local colour.

Inevitably, he beds one of the daughters. Less inevitably, he carries on a charming, sincere and courtly little mock romance with the grandmother.

And somehow all this stimulates the father to break out of his torpor and ask the local barmaid for a date, one sister to go in search of mother (and to cope with what she finds), and all the sisters to begin the process of sorting out their lives.

By the time the visitor leaves, not an enormous amount has changed in their lives, but everything has been jolted just enough to suggest that things might be a wee bit better. And you've come to know and like them enough that you leave happy for them.

Lucy Bailey's generally light touch as director sometimes has to wrestle with Dick Bird's unnecessarily clever and complex set, but she keeps things moving and keeps all the characters attractive.

The cast all meet the challenge of rounding out and individualising what are, in the case of the family, very close to stereotypes, and in the American, more a plot device than a fully-drawn character.

Special mention to the always reliable Annette Crosbie as grandmother and David Bradley as father, and to John Light as the actor and Justine Mitchell as his brief bed partner.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Night Season - National Theatre 2004

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