Brighton Fringe 2010
Lights fade on a storm and a story; then a story within a story. Emma D’Arccy directs Nick Warburton’s play, adapted for the stage, a chilling tale of love unanswered.
Fridays, when it Rains, by Nick Warburton, playwright and children’s novelist, is a play set in the age of steam in a compartment carriage on the last train home. Essentially a psychological drama with a ghostly core, Emma D’Arcy produces and a very impressive Vicki Carpenter directs and stars as a woman relieved to make the last train home after becoming lost both the panic and shadows of a maze of streets. But is the last train a train she really wants to be on? And who is the man with whom she shares a carriage?
Essentially a story within a story, a tale unfolds on the shared journey. Robin Saikia looks the part of a sinister, Alistair Sim-like raconteur with eyes that fairly pop out of his head, when he wants to menace. Vicki Carpenter might have fallen straight off a black and white celluloid reel, and the revealed carriage set is startling in its careful realisation, in this intimate theatre space on Gardner Street. We’re in a train carriage, not looking at a theatre set. The cast of two inhabit their characters well and help sustain the tension right to the last. There’s a lot of stillness in this production with vocal delivery the mainstay as the story is shared between them. The stillness is help well, allowing the story to move, like a train towards an unknown destination.
Sets in small spaces often look amateur and unnecessary. Not this. It helps make the piece the absorbing, dark tale that it truly is.
A Tale of the Unexpected, the story unfolds as the train is also a character in one act play. The stations too, the people mentioned in the story, are all members of the cast. The small carriage becomes part of a bigger world, and it is all magically revealed on stage through some excellently paced storytelling, and interactions between the characters.
This particular performance felt a little hesistant at the start, but it soon flowed and this reviewer was witness to a very impressively acted and realised piece of ghost-tale theatre. "If you’re not careful, your imagination can change the world around you" we hear. We certainly forgot we were in a theatre space and were, instead, fellow travellers aboard this claustrophic locomotive.
Many themes are covered: unrequited love, loss, elusive happiness, the experiences that haunt unto the grave and perhaps beyond…and the stories that we call our lives. The story-within-a-story structure serves the play well; there are a lot of words spoken and it holds attention to the last. Some of the blocking of the physical moments need to be finessed but this is a play that will mature like good wine as it plays more nights.
The soundscape lends a further sinister feel to the dark mood of the story and helps the darkness to close further in not just on the characters but also on we, the captivated audience.
A very impressive and thrilling-chilling piece of theatre. Catch it during the Brighton Fringe where it may well have reached outstanding.