Director: Sean Ronan
Writer: Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Reviewer: Orna O’Connor
Written by British actress and playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz, The Night Season is a dark comedy that explores the metaphysical aspects of love, loyalty, sex, and death. Lenkiewicz presents these themes in the context of an Irish kitchen sink drama set in Sligo. The plot centres on a family of three sisters, an alcoholic father, their eccentric grandmother and their absent mother.
Recognisable character archetypes such as a mad, but wise, old lady support Lenkiewicz’s use of traditional narrative devices. One such dramatic catalyst in the play’s narrative is the arrival of a stranger into a small rural town and the ensuing disruption this has upon the lives of the focal family. This intrusion of the outside world awakens characters’ once forgotten dreams, memories and desires. Lenkiewicz’s decision that the stranger character should take the form of a man who is playing a film rôle as the great romantic Irish poet Yeats sets the tone for her character’s spiritual and emotional journeys throughout the drama.
In the absence of any real time dramatic action this play relies upon the use of metaphor and symbolism within characters dialogue to drive the play’s narrative forward, or if not necessarily forward, at least to an end point. As with Chekhov, not a lot actually happens onstage, or at least, nothing particularly visually dramatic. And, as with Chekhov, Lenkiewicz’s text requires clear direction and a nuanced performance by actors in order to avoid a dialogue-heavy play becoming incredibly dull and pointless.
Unfortunately, director Sean Ronan has failed to draw any level of nuance from the original text. Neither the actor’s performances nor the plays scenography successfully capture the tension of the often narrow divide between comedy and tragedy. Ronan has gone for cheap laughs as characters curse loudly; this slapstick comedic approach does not work within the context of Lenkiewicz’s dialogue. When the humour in a dark comedy is played in the tone of clownery rather than deadpan the play’s darker moments hang awkwardly mid-air. This imbalance of tone in the drama is made painfully apparent following a reference in the dialogue to marital rape was quickly followed by a hammy joke, which was performed with nervous enthusiasm, and resulted in a moment of communal embarrassment.
Essentially director Ronan has misinterpreted the original text of The Night Season; this production is performed as a drama with some light comedy and has been presented onstage as such. The stage design is poor with an overcrowded and cluttered space actors appear clumsy in their interactions with various props, a distinct lack of physical space interferes with moments of onstage action and negatively affects the momentum of scene progressions.
The acting in this piece was very weak, but it is the lack of subtly in the direction, which is this production’s biggest flaw. It is a shame this production is not handled differently because the original text holds the potential for an intellectually and emotionally interesting piece of theatre, and credit must be given to the company for choosing to produce such a challenging work. However, perhaps having bitten off more than they can chew Out of the Blue Theatre Company appears to be slightly out of their depth.
Runs until 11 October 2014 | Image: Civic Theatre