Friday, 26 November 2010

The Nightwatchman **1/'2

The Nightwatchman 
By Daniel Keene, by If Theatre
 Theatreworks, November 26 to December 12, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert for Herald Sun
Stars: **1/2

Daniel Keene’s plays can vary from introspective, poetic stories to crazy, colloquial black comedies and the Nightwatchman is one of the former. This play was commissioned by French theatre company, Compagnie des Docks.

Mat Scholten’s production moves slowly – almost painfully so – at a pace commensurate with the sense of loss experienced by the characters. Bill (Roger Oakley), an elderly, blind man, with his two adult children, Helen (Zoe Ellerton-Ashley) and Michael (Brad Williams), prepares to leave his family’s home. We witness their final, fraught days before departure as they muse on their shared past and evoke the memories that reside in their home.

Bill lost his wife years earlier to an unspecified illness. Over a period of time, he went blind and now he lives alone in the darkness amongst the detritus of his past. His memories are fading; even his wife’s face eludes him although he speaks to her still. Oakley finds a quirky, bemused quality as Bill. He underplays the character’s blindness making it merely an incidental issue for Bill who drinks too much wine to chase away the memories, the ghosts, his boredom, loneliness and blank despair.

Ellerton-Ashley plays Helen as a bossy, nervy and intermittently resentful daughter who resists any change and loss of her childhood home. Williams plays Michael, the photographer, as a jaded and tired young man who seems unable to attach.

Keene’s script is gently contemplative, sometimes brooding. The characters’ concerns and reminiscences are dealt with in both dialogues that are often family spats and monologues that are reflective and internalised.

Scholten’s direction is measured but the pace and rhythm become repetitive. The production is static and lacks dramatic tension although audiences will relate to the loss of childhood, changes in family dynamics and shared memory.

By Kate Herbert

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