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Dusk Rings A Bell (Halesworth – HighTide Festival)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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We’re in the United States, on a jetty in one of those seaside villages where life revolves around incomers’ second, holiday homes. Out of season, the locals look after the shuttered properties and scrape a living doing whatever comes along. There's usually not a lot of it, nor is the work which offers itself of great value.

The strength of Stephen Belber’s play for two actors which is receiving its European première at the HighTide Festival is that this location could just as easily be anywhere on the coast of island or mainland Europe where this pattern of lifestyle is now the norm. The weakness is that the man and woman we meet are a little too stereotypical to engage our sympathy as completely as they should do.

She was a teenager when they first met, secure in an affluent and nurturing home background. He was a local lad, with any promise the future might hold out already blurred and tattering. Some 25 years later, she breaks in to the house her family had once rented – and he, the caretaker, catches her. The tides of experience have washed them onto very different shores, as we gradually discover.

Katherine Kingsley as Molly, professionally high-powered but emotionally under-fuelled, catches just the right sort of superficial brittleness for the divorcée who has to live in and for the present, because the past is riddled with thorns of regret which stab. Ray is a man who has made too many mistakes ever to be at ease with himself; vocally dark and brooding, Paul Blair is a little too monotone to let us emphasise with and even fully understand the casual violence which has since blighted his life.

There’s an extremely effective set by takis, with reeds truncating the jetty with its mooring bollards and old-fashioned street lamps. Steven Atkinson directs with an obvious conviction in the play, perhaps overly so. I felt the epilogue flash-back is redundant; it doesn’t tell us anything which hasn’t already been expressed by Molly and Ray.


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