Writer: Francesca Millican-Slater
Reviewer: John Kennedy
Having garnered Edinburgh Fringe rave reviews, spook-central for getting gripped in the crypt, Millican-Slater’s self-penned observations of the banal to the bizarre, the mundane to the macabre, ensure that things are certain going to go strangely bump tonight.
A debut Rep production supported by The Barry Jackson Trust, tonight’s elegiac lyrical love letter to insomniacs from part radio-raconteur, part night-porter, presses plenty of buttons in all the fright places. Our evening’s journey is mapped out by the three phases of the almanac calculated night. Beginning with Nautical Dusk when ships can first navigate by stars, to Astronomical Dusk – night proper – closing with Civil Twilight, we are subsumed into the lives of a cast of disparate, sometimes downright loathsome characters. A peeping Tom’s kaleidoscope of punished pasts and fractured futures.
We are drawn in through a shifting web woven of non-sequential narratives with ambiguous closures. Take the proud couple whose new home soon becomes bombarded by un-neighbourly sub-bass beats. They retaliate with Taylor Swift, another neighbour cranks up the Tchaikovsky and so it escalates all along this insular semi-detached street. Totally detached from ever actually speaking to each other.
Pity the poor guy on the pork-pie production line, ever poking steam escape holes. In a desperate bid for peer approval, he fashions a pastry penis letting it loose on the conveyer belt. His disciplinary nemesis is the basement Scotch-egg shift. But worse, much worse is to come. And so unravel tales of heart-crushing loneliness. Of the prim spinster taking the Dark-Web Bitcoin between her teeth – and other places – offering anonymous, mutual titillation on her terms. Fear the violence-porn obsessed young woman whose climax derives from repetitive filmic loops of mobile camera nightclub carnage. But there are gentler souls too. Take poor Trevor, victim of his own altruism who becomes trapped in a sunken bath, faux zebra sofa interior décor. Gain succor as Civil Twilight unfolds to reveal the man who keeps the world turning.
Ingenious, inventive an alchemist of narrative atmospherics, Millican-Slater’s characters seem empathically plausible. Her nuanced riffs on Roald Dhal and the 1945 Ealing Film, Dead of Night assures her place as a word-wielder of magical imaginings. Vignettes of vulnerability and vice, these lives less ordinary occupy a behavioral spectrum of extremes ranging from intimate eccentricity to the inchoate rage of unrequited narcissism. All equally compelling and convincing. Thoroughly recommended.
Runs until 18 February and on tour | Image: Graeme Braidwood