For the opening night of the 2017 Easter Festival of Plays MADF welcomed back Bejou Productions to perform their production of The Night Alive by Conor McPherson. This play ultimately representing the hope people can inspire within one another during times of loneliness and despair. McPherson carefully balances the light and the dark, redemption and bleakness, which is portrayed through his use of black comedy and lighter humour throughout the play. The Night Alive has been described as a modern day Nativity play due to the battle between the good and evil represented through the contrast of charity and exploitation, and faith and despair.
The Night Alive follows the protagonist, Tommy (Richard Foster), a middle-aged man struck with searing loneliness since being estranged from his family a couple of years before and now living in a room of his Uncle Maurice’s (David Streames) house. The play spans over a few weeks starting with the night Tommy meets the damaged, and sometime prostitute, Aimee (Joanna Mitchell) who he rescues from a beating by her boyfriend. The play climaxes as Aimee’s boyfriend, Kenneth (Jeremy Battersby) comes looking for her and encounters Tommy’s ‘disabled’ and loveable sidekick Doc (Robb Stow).
Overall Bejou Productions delivered a powerful interpretation of McPherson’s play and the adjudicator Robert Meadows rightfully described the production as a portrayal of the “redemptive power of companionship” performed by a “strong team of actors.”
Foster delivered Tommy’s comedic lines well, holding a good pace throughout and a great delivery in times of angst, especially during the interactions between Tommy and Doc where Foster nicely set up a harsh and soft opposition between the two. However, Foster needed to accentuate his character’s loneliness and neediness even more and from the very beginning. Mitchell had extremely convincing reactions portraying her character’s abuse, excellent character development showing the damage she had suffered in her life and brought a different interpretation to the character who is often played as someone in their late teens. Stow’s Doc was an endearing performance, a character who definitely won the audience over making the climax of the play even more powerful and hard hitting. Stow had great childlike actions and behaviour with an honest characterisation for a character described as being ‘always five to ten minutes behind’. Streames, playing the part of Uncle Maurice, had great comedic timing with a brilliant and humorous reaction to finding the turnips under the camp bed as well as a pleasant and funny reaction to Tommy’s lack of gratitude when Maurice decides to leave him the house. Battersby’s Kenneth overall created a good sense of danger and had a terrifying and menacing laugh. However, Battersby needs to watch his pace and clarity as at times he was unclear. Also, his exit from the last scene of act one could have perhaps been more powerful but the character’s death was played well. There was a great opposition created between Streames’ Doc and Battersby’s Kenneth during the hammer scene, a brilliant power dynamic was formed using different levels and rightfully built tension through the scene.
A small criticism about scene changes but at times the actors moved before the lights fully went down which could have disturbed the audience’s experience. Costume design was good, with Uncle Maurice showing whether or not he had left the house that day and with the others showing signs of keeping warm. Battersby had his hair greased back which the adjudicator thought added to the malevolence and was a nice touch. White’s direction was well thought out regarding the acting space on stage as there was good motivation for movements throughout the performance and a brilliant balance between dark and light humour, something which this play needs for an effective production.
The full set was beautifully designed with a good attention to detail, all the little decorations and accessories coming together each in their place with a purpose. There was a great use of sound effects, Maurice’s banging on the floor upstairs and the sound of birds outside. The music chosen had a good fusion of poignancy and hope keeping the audience involved in the action. The music added another dimension to the production. The lighting was atmospheric and there was a good use of onstage lamps, however at times you struggled to see the actors’ faces so this is something the team need to look into improving as this took away from the performance in some scenes. Overall, stage presentation was very effective.
Bejou Productions’ The Night Alive was a brilliant interpretation of McPherson’s play performed by a team with great comedic timing and discourse between characters. Bejou Productions delivered a powerful piece last night to open the Easter Festival of Plays.