Brighton Fringe 2013
With the backdrop of music, a man becomes both his father, himself and several characters who form the front of house of a theatre. This classic play from Neil Bartlett is a superb depiction of characters who live life in the shadows of 1950s Britain.
The intimate Marlboroough Theatre is a perfect venue for Neil Bartlett and Nicolas Bloomfield’s classic production of Night after Night. This production was first performed twenty years ago upstairs at the Royal Court and has been produced fairly regularly since. These fact don’t of themselves cause a play to become a classic, but it is clear from the very first moments why this play should , and is, seen as great.
The stage is set with items scattered in various corners; a table with drinks, a piano, a chair next to another table with bottles and other paraphernalia, a waistcoat here, a jacket there, something on the floor. In the first moments before the actors appear it is hard to make sense of where we are. In walks a tall, gentlemanly character (Nicolas Bloomfield) with the short back and sides of the 1950s. He looks around, sits at the piano and starts, initially, tinkering where one wonders if this is part of the act and he will soon get up and speak. But at that moment we suddenly remember, ah yes, this is a musical play. In walks someone looking quite splendid. He has an ‘interesting’ wig on, high heels and a flowing robe. This is Paul Shaw and it is he who stands in front of us for an hour providing the most extraordinary evening of theatre.
The character is the author and the night is the night of his own conception. His father is waiting at a theatre to meet his mother and celebrate the wondrous event . As he waits for the woman to appear, he flits between his father and himself as well as a host of other people in and around the theatre; the cloakroom attendant, the barman, the ticket collector, the theatre manager. Underpinning everyone and all the performances is the reality of their lives and the central tenet of their sexuality. But it is never as crass and obvious as that. It is done with a lightness of touch, yet a depth of meaning, that could fall heavily in the hands of someone less skilled. This move from person to person was fluidly achieved by mannerisms, body language and simple devices such as handing on a glass of gin and taking it with the other hand, or passing a coat and moving to the other side of it to receive it – brilliant and simple.
A superb script is always dependent on the acting skills of the actor, and Paul Shaw proved entirely up to the task. He was, quite simply, mesmerising. The humour of the script together with the music linked in perfectly with the words and actions.
It is a great pleasure when you begin to watch something great emerging in front of you and you know that you are in the hands of someone incredibly skilled. So it was with this piece, not only the author and musical director and player, but also the actor. This is by far the best thing I have seen at the Fringe.