by Barney Norris.
Arcola Theatre (Studio 2) 24 Ashwin Street Dalston E8 3DL To 17 October.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
(Tuesdays – `Pay what you can’; from 6pm, subject to availability.)
then Tour 22 Oct-14 Nov 2015.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 28 September.
Moving moments amid cluttered speeches.
Barney Norris’ Neighbours was one of the sleeper successes of last year, a beautifully judged rhapsody on a theme of marital/family despair and dementia in the countryside. It garnered awards galore after its success at the Bush. But it started out here at Mehmet Ergen’s Arcola `powerhouse’ in Dalston.
Now Ergen’s commissioned a further rural elegy and much as I’d like to enthuse I found it less absorbing than Visitors. Perhaps it is something to do with the way Norris has organised his material, plunging us immediately into the long-winded jokey repertoire of John, Hampshire pub landlord on the eve of selling-up and losing his way of life.
In one sense it’s a clever ruse on Norris’ part. Jokes, as so often, are John’s defence against the reality of a world that is crashing around him. His sad unravelling is really what takes centre stage here, the forlorn, bereft look on James Doherty’s face as of a tide gone out the thing that lingers most in the memory.
But too often, dialogue, delivered sometimes in dense, over-worked speeches, sounds more literary than theatrical, as if more at home on the page, perhaps not entirely coincidental, with Norris’s first novel coming out shortly.
Beside John’s personal trauma, there are delicate interlacings of two of John’s customers, Mark and Liz – Mark on the eve of his wedding, Liz, the church organist doing voluntary work with the elderly.
Norris is a dab hand at identifying social awkwardness, frustration and quiet despair. Apart from John, Mark and Liz’s inner turmoils are conveyed lightly, without much fanfare, although Liz is given the odd unexpected thoughts on the meaning and place of the church, leading to the most touching moment of the evening – Liz and John humming `Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ – abruptly terminated with John’s misunderstanding of Liz’s expectations.
Hasan Dixon and Ellie Piercy make affecting symbols of ordinary individuals at the crossroads. But Bea Roberts’ recent And Then Come the Nightjars at Theatre 503 and, earlier, Robert Holman, have more appealingly caught those imperceptible shifts of the human heart in changing times.
Mark: Hasan Dixon.
John: James Doherty.
Liz: Ellie Piercy.
Director: Alice Hamilton.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: Simon Gethin Thomas.
Sound: George Dennis.
Assistant director: George Nichols.
22-24 Oct 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 01284 769505 www.theatreroyal.org
28-31 Oct 8pm North Wall Oxford 01865 319450 www.thenorthwall.com
3-7 Nov 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.45pm Salisbury Playhouse (Salberg Studio) 01722 320333 www4.salisburyplayhouse.com
10-14 Nov 8.15pm Brewery Theatre Bristol 0117 902 0344 www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com
Eventide is presented by Up in Arms and Arcola Theatre in association with the North Wall, Oxford.
World premiere of Eventide Studio 2, Arcola Theatre, London, 25 September 2015.