SEEING THE LIGHTS
by Brendan Murray.
New Victoria Theatre Etruria Road To 3 October 2015.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 October.
Some light, some heat, but not quite at full power.
Word by the lake was highly positive when Brendan Murray’s new play surfaced in Keswick’s studio space last year. Here, Theatre by the Lake audience members said, was a new play not just for qualified appreciation, but for outright enjoyment.
It was sensible, then, of the New Vic to take it up so quickly and programme the piece before the annual autumn onslaught of Ayckbourn from Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre. Yet the impact this time around seems considerably more muted, which might be down to Peter Leslie Wild’s determinedly realistic production, on a set by Sue Condie which laboriously lays out several rooms in Mum’s home as she spends her last days waiting for a birthday visit that will not – it becomes increasingly clear – happen from a son half-way round the world, and hoping for one last visit to her old holiday haunt Blackpool, to see its Illuminations.
Perhaps it’s as well she never returns to the seaside, given the disenchanted view of Blackpool in Gareth Farr’s Britannia Waves the Rules, also revived from last year by Manchester’s Royal Exchange. But the family’s alternative for Mum here, carefully prepared by the electrical happenings and misadventures earlier in the story and involving an illuminated installation, should provide a natural-seeming resolution and a thrill of joy at its lighting-up, bringing a sense of underlying family harmony.
As a writer of several fine plays for young people – including, in How High Is Up? an imaginative investigation of the experience involved in bereavement – Murray can harness theatrical images within a play to investigate and express emotional complexities. Here, he rather shovels-in the kind of issues educational drama can, in its lower reaches, be heir to: sexuality, religion, the warmth of friendly detachment against the heat of family feelings. But always with a mix of humour, as matters are laid-out with a sense of the play’s emotional rhythms.
No doubt the clutter of furniture reflects the emotional clutter of a family, stored-up as Mum’s life is now confined. But, ably acted as it is, even the final illuminations lack a bright spark and warm glow.
Nasir: Oliver Gatz.
Ray: Karl Haynes.
Mum: Anna Kirke.
Terry: George Potts.
Muna (Marion): Connie Walker.
Director: Peter Leslie Wild.
Designer: Sue Condie.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Musical Director: Matt Baker.
Vocal coach: Natalie Grady.