Suicide, comedy and a working kitchen at the Nottingham New Theatre
Making a duologue set in real time with no interval for an hour and a half gripping is certainly a challenge. The Nottingham New Theatre’s most recent production, ‘Night, Mother’ by Marsha Norman, is a fine example of how to do this well. The performances are as subtle, powerful and absorbing as the script and the design makes you feel like a fly on the wall, helplessly waiting for what’s coming.
Jessie (Alex Day) and her mother (Flo Hapgood) spend what Jessie has planned to be the last night of her life together. The evening begins normally until, under the guise of cleaning up, Jessie asks where her father’s gun is, preps it, and calmly announces that she will kill herself in two hours.
This may not sound like a barrel of laughs, and it would be very easy to take the script down the weary sentimental route but, thankfully, neither the playwright nor this production do that. The play is full of sardonic, down-to-earth humour. There is no pretence or schmaltz, just effective plain and simple drama.
Director Matt Wilks and his cast have worked very hard to make the mother-daughter relationship convincing, with as much attention to detail as Alex Jamieson has put into his accent coaching and naturalistic set design, with a little help from Wilks and producer Liz Cornwell. The commendable lighting design is so subtle and well synchronised that you don’t even notice it and the music is suitably chosen bittersweet bluegrass.
There were some opening night jitters with the spot-on accents swallowing words and some mischievous cocoa almost stealing a scene, but the end result was that it didn’t matter. This production was moving and a joy to watch. I think this show will get better with every performance and deserves to be seen.
‘Night, Mother’ runs at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 24th November, with performances at 7.30pm and a 2.30pm matinee.