Writer: Nina Segal
Director: Evangeline Cullingworth
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
The first few minutes of this show are spent in total darkness as we hear the cries of a newborn baby, only broken by rapid breathing as the baby gathers its strength to continue its deafening onslaught. Is the baby in pain, or is it punishing its parents for bringing it into such a world as ours?
Nina Segal’s 2016 play is showing at the Directors’ Festival at the Orange Tree Theatre. Three students on an MA course in directing spend time working at the Orange Tree as well studying at Queen’s Mary’s University in Twickenham. The students are offered the chance to direct a play of their choice and In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises) is the choice of Evangeline Cullingworth, who directs this dystopian tale with a relentless ferocity.
Actors Ziggy Heath and Anna Leong Brophy lean over the cot of their new baby, trying everything they can to help it stop crying. They tell stories to the baby and to each other of how they met, never agreeing on the details. They relate future stories too; stories of World Wars, and water shortages, of terrorist attacks and refugee crises. These future events may be unconnected, but the weary parents can’t shake off the belief that everything is related, and everything stems from the fact that their baby wont’ stop crying.
Or perhaps the play is about something else entirely. Under Cullingworth’s direction we are never quite sure whether this play is about the end of the world, or, merely, about the end of a marriage. Every move and line is loaded with heightened significance, and when the battleground appears out of Eleanor Bull’s initially neat and tidy set, we may be witnessing the apocalypse or, just maybe, a divorce.
With all the noise and movement, there at times when Culllingworth could let her actors – and indeed the audience – come up for air, but these 45 minutes are played at breakneck speed in circling crescendos. Heath and Brophy skilfully move from proud parents to paranoid psychopaths using every inch of the Orange Tree’s space. They ably carry the play’s mystifying narrative, and their approaches to the audience ensure we are pulled into their nightmare.
All three directors in the Festival have selected plays that involve characters who kick against the pricks, characters who wrestle back control from the authorities and the gods. Perhaps, in a way, Cullingworth, along with fellow directors Samson Hawkins and Dominique Chapman, are also kicking against tradition, promising a vibrant future for the theatre.
Reviewed on 21 July 2108 | Image: Robert Day