THE NIGHT ALIVE
by Conor McPherson.
Donmar Warehouse 41 Earlham Street WC2H 9LX To 27 July 2013.
Runs: 1hr 45min No interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 25 July.
Quiet dramatic consummation.
This is a coup for Donmar Artistic Director Josie Rourke. A world premiere from master Irish wordsmith, Conor McPherson. There was a time when that accolade might normally have attached itself to the name of Brian Friel. And in a sense, McPherson is Friel’s successor, inheriting the mantle of the Gaelic storyteller par excellence, Frank McGuinness and Enda Walsh notwithstanding.
McPherson’s latest, directed by the author, sees him returning to what he does best, evocation of character. If his previous, 2011 play, The Veil carried Chekhovian echoes, The Night Alive, all unconsciously no doubt, recalls smpther 19th-century Russian, Nikolai Gogol.
Spinning gold out of lost souls, Tommy, Doc and Aimee are, by any stretch of the imagination unprepossessing on first acquaintance. Tommy (Ciarán Hinds) describes himself classically as a `moocher’, a bit of an odd-and-job man with a van, Michael Elhatton’s scrubby looking sidekick `Doc’ alongside him – Bri(an), who having fallen arches and wearing Doc Martin’s `Doc’.
In Soutra Gilmour’s run-down decaying French-window set, piled to the ceiling with old bric-a-brac, even Tommy’s sleeping quarters speak of a scrambled sort of existence, into which then walks Aimee. Or rather, is bundled in by Tommy, rescued from a beating at the hands of a boy-friend, with a bloodied nose and mysterious allegiances.
Tommy sets about cleaning her up, offering her space for the night and gradually, before you realise it, the play has coiled around itself and into our hearts with moments endearing and heart-stopping by turns.
Gloriously, The Night Alive isn’t `about’ anything in particular, unless you count `being human’ in all its messy failures and miraculously, kindnesses.
In McPherson’s immaculate direction, each nondescript emotional shift, barely discernible, becomes defined. In an age of showy, unquiet acting, this play is a rare, precious exception fleshed out with a typically apt McPherson rock and soul soundscape.
Hinds, lank of hair, Caolifhionn Dunne, a wraith of abuse, McElhatton squirreled and not without shafts of brilliance, Jim Norton dapper as Tommy’s landlord and Brian Gleeson, a terrifying intruder, all command admiration. A total treat.
Tommy: Ciarán Hinds.
Aimee: Caolifhionn Dunne.
Doc: Michael McElhatton.
Maurice: Jim Norton.
Kenneth: Brian Gleeson.
Director: Conor McPherson.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin.
Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke.
Fight director: Paul Burke.
Assistant director: Oonagh Murphy.
World premiere of The Night Alive Donmar Warehouse Theatre London 13 June 2013.