THE GOODNIGHT BIRD
by Colleen Murphy.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 30 May 2011.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 May.
A happy end to the Finborough’s discovery of a playwright overdue for production in Britain.
Wherever her previous two plays in the Sunday/Monday night slot at the Finborough this spring might have seemed to place Canadian playwright Colleen Murphy, it’s not in Alan Ayckbourn territory.
Yet the opening of The Goodnight Bird, Murphy’s last play here, opens in bedroom farcical land as Lilly and Morgan, she retired from teaching, he wondering whether he’ll make it the last year or two to retirement before a second heart-attack or business reorganisation sees him off first, deal with the young intruder into their tidy condominium.
Their little world opens-out of its security-guarded lifestyle, in a bedroom walled with paintings of nature bought as an investment, arguing about domestic routines, when this young social drop-out falls like a bird from the roof onto their balcony, skewering himself on that little bit of the outdoors domesticated for urban usage, a barbecue.
Humour lasts as long as their inept responses, Lilly fearful and furious, Morgan calmer until his wife begins being won over, once the young man’s cleaned up and starts talking about his eco-sympathies and home-life in a ravine.
Murphy comes close to cheating at her first-act climax, which suggests Morgan’s time is up. It’s handled well in David Weston’s fine performance of a character whose preoccupation starts out whether he’d make the next day’s breakfast meeting, only to find his life’s expectations being undermined overnight.
Contrasting Morgan’s lifelong deliberative manner (he manages to munch an unwanted cookie while the other two discuss life-changing matters), Karen Archer’s Lilly fuses her opening irritations with her husband into property-owning alarm at young Parker’s sudden arrival and a later energy in buying the young man’s ideals.
Damien Lyne outlines his character clearly enough, but Bethan Dear’s production, which handles the opening comedy and alarm very well, might have helped follow Parker’s arguments more specifically; the danger is, however fine the ideals, he can seem generalised and unconsidered, a standardised excitable contrast to the others.
Still Murphy’s play is well worth seeing. And designer Holly Seager’s set admirably expresses, within the very limited scope of the Finborough’s Sunday/Monday shows, the near-retirees’ comfortably stifling lifestyle.
Lilly: Karen Archer.
Morgan: David Weston.
Parker: Damien Lyne.
Director: Bethan Dear.
Designer: Holly Seager.
Lighting: Dan Cloake.
Sound: George Dennis.
Costume: Fiona Albrow.