I have been a keen follower of Barney Norris’ plays ever since his first full length play, Visitors (Bush Theatre, 2014) played merry havoc with my heart. I was still drying my tears when I read with surprise that it was a debut play by a twenty-something playwright. There was an emotional sensitivity and maturity to the play that I’d have expected from a veteran with a long life’s worth of heartbreak to call upon.
Since then I’ve caught all of his plays that have played in London, and have even travelled to Salisbury to see a show he was putting on there. The one thing I’ve found is that while the subject matter may vary, the emotional fragility and truthfulness of his characters is a consistent thread, and Nightfall is no exception.
I’ve seen Nightfall in preview (the press night is on Tuesday 8th May), so I am speaking about a play that is still a work in progress, and I’m not here to nitpick or even do a fully formed review. Even if I were, the cast of 4 are each wonderful, I wouldn’t want to pick their performances apart. They inhabit their characters in a way that feels authentic and fully realised. The way Barney Norris gently reveals character details throughout the play means they get to grow in front of your eyes, until the full impact of their past actions are uncovered, and they are revealed in their full, vulnerable glory.
If you enjoy your theatre action-packed, this is not the play for you. This is a piece of theatre that will be cherished by those who enjoy works that explore the complexity of human relationships, the threads that hold families together, and the mythology we create around the people we’ve loved and lost.
Unlike Visitors I wasn’t left a blotchy eyed wreck at the end (which I’m grateful for, I take ugly crying to a whole new level). Nightfall comes out of a loss that has already happened and we’re seeing its ripple effects. It feels timeless while being very much rooted in the reality that we now live in. It is in the small details, the exchanges, the bursting of the secret-infused bubble wrap that surrounds a family, that the power of this play lies.
Nightfall is a beautifully written and realised piece of theatre, well worth catching before it finishes its run at the Bridge Theatre on 26th May 2018.