New Century House, Manchester
Writer Thomas Bloor makes the historical relevant to today's audience without scrimping on the period details in this darkly comic tale set in 1815.
The fighting is over on the blood-soaked field of Waterloo. Nel and Tosh, both newly made war widows, pick through the debris, human and material, that remains. Objects are strewn across the ground, and quickly rearranged or taken away as they move across the field, and they are as likely to find a former sweetheart dying from head wounds as they are to discover an umbrella. The effect is slightly dystopian, as the two women work out how to survive in the empty landscape.
It is the relationship between Nel (Holly Fisherman Crook), and Tosh (Louise Bloor) which really drives the play. Nel, mercenary and cunning, can't quite rid herself of the slightly dim but good-hearted Tosh and although she would never admit it neither does she want to. Writer Thomas Bloor follows the rules of the best comic partnerships by making Nel the straighter of the two - though both have excellent comic timing. And although Louise Bloor's Tosh is sometimes clownish in her comedy, there is a steeliness to her instinctive generosity which makes her the stronger of the two. In the end it is not Tosh's naivety which gets them into trouble but Nel's greed.
There is not a moment of Night on the Field of Waterloo which is not riveting. Writer, director and cast do a fine job of creating the atmosphere of 1815, while at the same time absorbing you into something where period is no longer relevant. For those who are still deciding which 24/7 plays to see, Night on the Field of Waterloo should definitely be on the list.
- Joanna Ing