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Brighton Fringe 2024

A Year And A Day

Raising Cain Productions

Genre: Drama, Storytelling, Theatre

Venue: Rotunda Squeak


Low Down

Engaging and curious tale of a man who skips a year every day


Every life is a series of days.

We enter Rotunda Theatre’s Squeak auditorium to find no set at all : we are presented with a sparse, black space. Christopher Sainton-Clark appears on stage and immediately has the audience in his grip : there is a mortal struggle taking place and he pauses to tell us that this is the story of his death.

What follows is the tale of Nathan, a young man in a small town in Ireland in 1958. There was precious little money around : Nathan’s parents barely make ends meet, partly as a result of his father having had his legs broken by the local gangster. He, his wife Elsie and best friend Sam, decide to conduct the classic victimless crime : the aforementioned gangster is now bedridden and has a valuable coin (£15,000), which they will steal and replace with an almost worthless double. This all goes to plan until Nathan cannot prevent himself from mocking the gangster.

The three flee to a heath, where Nathan follows a bright light form the sky and awakes the following morning. When he goes home, it transpires a year and a day have elapsed. From this moment on, whenever Nathan falls asleep, or reaches midnight, he awakens a year and a day later. During the ensuing years, he spends many of his days with Elsie, but this day is just an annual event for her. He watches her age, drift into dementia and finds they have less and less in common. When she dies, her son is already in his 50’s, but only around two months have elapsed for him. She seems to have led a good life, partly on the proceeds of the crime.

Christopher Sainton-Clark’s performance is outstanding : he takes the audience on his journey, charmingly and viscerally. It is theatrical story-telling at its best. A feature of the piece is that Nathan speaks in rhyming couplets, only breaking when speaking for other characters. This device has its roots in Raising Cain Productions’ adult bedtime stories. The effect is to imbue the text with a metronomic rhythm. The pace is relentless and credit to the director Rosanna Mallinson.

Time travel has been employed in popular fiction countless times, but this is an unusual device : Nathan is not stuck in a time loop like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. Neither is his life out of sequence as in The Time Traveler’s Wife. It does not appear that he is not ageing like Dorian Gray. No, his life is simply out of sync with the rest of the world : a month for him is 3 decades for the rest of us. This of course renders  friendships and relationships difficult. The piece brings into focus friendship, trust and life partnerships. Every life truly is a series of days.

The play poses existential questions : Aren’t we all just one day away from death ? And, if so, shouldn’t we seize the day ?