“They have a child and life changes. He can’t go out and she can’t stay in. He writes words which no one will publish and she takes a lover.”
Before seeing Nightsongs, I thought this tagline must be alluding to the big drama within. Apparently not. In reality, the actual play gives nothing more than those three sentences. Unfortunately, it’s drawn out into an hour of monotonous, repetitive dialogue which neither inspires nor informs.
It is either very brave or very stupid to have a clock on stage unless the play is so gripping one forgets that it's there. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case and I found my eyes fixed on the time rather than the supposed action on stage on more than one occasion.
The play thrives on its repetition, which to a point helps create the suffocating monotony experienced by the young woman. However, after a time the audience are almost screaming at them both to do something about the situation. Peter James puts in a convincing performance as the infuriating young man who mopes about the house all day, socially inept and depressed. This unfortunately resulted in me having to restrain myself from applauding when he finally takes some form of control of the situation in the concluding moments of the play. Rosalind Steele too, gives a strong portrayal of a woman trapped in emotion; the inner struggle between her heart and head providing the only break to the tedious dialogue.
The interruption of impromptu comedic moments within key emotional scenes is neither convincing nor welcome, breaking the tension created through the situation. What the audience is left with is a play which seems caught in between genres, lost halfway between tragedy and comedy, never committing to one but hinting at both, leaving the audience confused and ultimately indifferent towards the ending.
Whilst Nightsongs is well executed by both the cast and their director, Hamish MacDougall, its flaws lie in its depressing, uneventful script. It attempts in some way to reflect reality but becomes stuck in a purgatory between genres, losing thread after thread of any attempt at committing to one. One can see where writer Jon Fosse attempts to use several devices, such as repetition, but he overuses them to the extent that all the audience can feel is frustration, thereby rendering the Ibsenesque ending superfluous.
- Rowena Betts