AND THEN COME THE NIGHTJARS
by Bea Roberts.
Theatre 50above The Latchmere Pub 503 Battersea Park Road To 26 September.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Sun 5pm.
TICKETS: 020 7978 7040.
then Bristol Old Vic (Studio) King Street BS1 4ED 6-17 October 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
TICKETS: 0117 987 7877.
Runs: 1hr 30min No interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 8 September.
Mature drama shows trouble down the farm.
New writing is the life-blood of theatre, which, like a freshwater pond, needs constant replenishment to keep its ecology healthy and thriving.
Theatre 503 does as much as anyone to keep stocks replenished. And Then Come the Nightjars is indeed the winner of Theatre503’s 2014 Playwriting Award, produced now in conjunction with Bristol Old Vic, where this production transfers after its London run.
Bea Roberts’ two-hander is a remarkably mature piece of work. Previous working as a stand-up comic must contribute to her sure sense of where and how to place dialogue to maximum effect. To sustain interest and momentum for 90 minutes between two characters is no mean feat.
This Roberts accomplishes with ease. Her protagonists are situated at the apex of social change, one that only occasionally in theatre receives attention: farming. Barney Norris’s award-winning, slow-burner, Visitors, last year took a rural setting for its painful drawing of an ageing marriage and family dynamics.
Roberts instead hones in directly on the terrible repercussions arising from the Foot & Mouth epidemic in 2001 and on the effect on one Devon farmer of losing `all his girls’ (Nightjars are a symbol of death to farmers), condemned, though healthy, by DEFRA (the Department for Economic and Rural Affairs) in order to `contain’ the outbreak.
Anyone listening to `Farming Today’ will have heard the crucifying emotional effect on some farmers for whom their animals are not just measured in tonnage to slaughter. Roberts brings this reality tellingly to life in Michael.
Played by veteran actor David Fielder with a west country burr at times almost impenetrable, his anguish is nonetheless keenly conveyed through his rough and tumble relationship with local vet, Jeff – a “waste of space” according to Michael and also to his wife – played by Nigel Hastings with a wonderful combination of gaucheness and warmth.
Theatre503’s artistic director, Paul Robinson, produces a beautifully judged, hauntingly lit production for a play that, like Waiting for Godot, or towards an end suggesting Falstaff and Prince Hal, portrays the sustainability of an unusual male friendship against a backdrop of today’s fast-changing farming landscape.
Michael: David Fielder.
Jeff: Nigel Hastings.
Director: Paul Robinson.
Designer: Max Dorey.
Lighting: Sally Ferguson.
Composer: Olly Fox.
Sound: Max Perryment.
Assistant director: Rebecca Loudon
Assistant designer: Daisy Young
World premiere of And Then Come the Nightjars Theatre 503 2 September 2015.
Co-produced with Bristol Old Vic.