Midnight Your Time – Donmar Warehouse Digital Production

Reviewer: Alice Hiley

Writer: Adam Brace

Director: Michael Longhurst

Every Thursday, Judy, a retired Islington lawyer, attempts to video call her daughter who’s volunteering in Palestine. They’re supposed to chat at midnight, her time, except she’s not picking up.

Judy’s calls remain unanswered and she resorts to leaving video messages instead, which become increasingly harried and desperate as the weeks go by. We find out Judy’s daughter is not in danger, and has been emailing her father and brother regularly, but is ignoring her mother after they had a huge fallout at Christmas – the news, if anything, makes Judy even more distressed. The play’s exploration of this strained family dynamic is superb and will strike a chord with many.

The production originally premiered at Donmar Warehouse in 2011 as a one-woman stage play. It garnered promising reviews, but it’s difficult to imagine how the piece might have worked on-stage. Now Diana Quick has reprised her role via webcam. Written by Adam Brace, the concept seems born for the current age of Zoom and Skype, and the frustrations of long-distance conversation and the failures of modern technology are achingly familiar.

There’s a strong, witty dissection of a certain kind of middle-class, ostentatious liberalism that many of us will recognise. Judy’s a member of the Labour Party and the Women’s Peace League, but attends meetings mostly to gather gossip. She competes with the locals to be the first to invite their new Afghanistani neighbour round for dinner. She wants to do good things, but only if she’s able to brag about them afterwards.

Quick does an exceptional job at making us simultaneously sympathise with and despise this frantic, interfering mother. We long for the rift to be mended, but watch as Judy fills in a UK job application on her daughter’s behalf with a mix of horror and outrage. The play’s funnier moments are when Judy turns up “sloshed” after a New Year’s Eve party, or when she Skypes surrounded by mountains of rice as a thank you for giving legal help to the local corner shop.

Quick’s performance is understated, and her refrain “I’m alright, as long as I know you’re safe” grows more touching the more times it’s repeated without reply. The messages Judy decides to delete are the most poignant; filming becomes a method of venting her feelings as opposed to communicating, and that’s when the true emotion shines through. The rest of the time, though, she is difficult to warm to.

The description calls the work “heartbreaking”, which it might have been if we had been given a deeper look into the family’s life. There’s so much we never find out, not least the cause of the initial Christmas fallout. While at first the amount of withheld information works to intrigue us, towards the end it prohibits us from truly connecting with the characters. We’re not really “let in” to their lives, only given a glimpse.

Adam Brace has created a frustrating, conflicting character who no doubt will be recognised by many. The play is worth watching for its witty and subtle writing, but isn’t the heartbreakingly emotional piece it’s set up to be.

Runs here until 20 May

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Witty webcam theatre

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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