How wonderful to see an exciting new play about women – finely written by a woman (only her second play), sensitively directed by a woman (Lucy Bailey) and also beautifully performed by women.
As an actress herself, author Rebecca Lenkiewicz knows full well how few good meaty roles there are for women in theatre, so her quartet of ladies – Sarah-Jane Drummey, Justine Mitchell and Susan Lynch as the three lovelorn and sex-starved Kennedy sisters and Annette Crosbie as their batty grandmother – should be thankful she’s written The Night Season and ensured that the wealth is liberally distributed.
That isn’t to say that the wealth is strictly limited by gender. Into this ramshackle Sligo household harem enter three somewhat skittish but ultimately sympathetic men. As the reluctant patriarch, David Bradley is on fine comic form. Abandoned by the girls’ mother ten years ago, he finds solace in drink, literary allusions and a scantily clad barmaid. John Light, as an actor seeking digs during filming for a movie about poet WB Yeats, makes a handsome catalyst for change, and Lloyd Hutchinson an ever-patient suitor.
Nevertheless, The Night Season - which borrows its title from the Bible (Psalms 22 – “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent”) rather than Yeats - belongs to the women, particularly Crosbie, who is ferocious and funny as the old woman combatting death and a host of eccentricities.
Mothers and daughters are key to this tale, but perhaps more key still is an intoxicating sense of romanticism. This is emphasised by director Bailey who creates a soft-focus dreaminess in her production, thanks largely to Roderick Skeaping’s music and Dick Bird’s imaginative design in which beds hang from walls and tides rise from the floorboards.
“Real love makes you fearless,” remarks Eastman’s actor. “That’s why people crave it. They want to feel transformed.” It’s what all the characters – women and men - strive for, struggling in spite of their fears of abandonment, unworthiness and loss. And we feel transformed by their valiant struggle.
At nearly three hours, you could argue for some pruning, but I was so entranced by the world of Lenkiewicz’s play, I would happily have watched it go on for much longer, following its six players as they danced on.
- Terri Paddock