Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Review A Dark Night In Dalston


Reviewer Peter Barker recognises the disquiet and desires of  two very different London residents in an appealing new play.

A Dark Night In Dalston
by Stewart Permutt

The Odd Couple
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

This new play, A Dark Night in Dalston is certainly a visit to a dark place, but the resolution of this touching comedy drama also leaves hope for the future.

The 90-minute offering from writer Stewart Permutt and director Tim Stark is set in contemporary Dalston, traditionally a rough part of London's East End.

Young Jewish accountant Gideon (Joe Coen) finds himself seeking refuge from racist thugs in the social-housing flat of mother and carer Gina (Michelle Collins).

Gideon is well outside his manor, which is Stanmore at the leafy end of the tube's Jubilee Line rather than the concrete monoliths of the capital's inner city.

He’s in the wrong area. But why? For, we learn, despite his religious observance, all is not quite what it seems or should be in Gideon's life.

To compound his immediate troubles, dusk is setting in on Friday evening, the beginning of  the Jewish sabbath. As a devout Jew, he is forbidden at that time from taking public transport or exchanging money and so has no way to get safely  home.

The kindness of a stranger, Gina, gives him sanctuary from his attackers. A former nurse and now a carer for her bed-bound husband,  she's older than Gideon, old enough to be his mother, she says.

She is trapped too; by her husband and by a troubled past leading to her quitting the nursing profession.

This unlikely pair meet, bond, argue, dance beautifully, take solace, find despair and move on throughout this single evening.

For both, the joy and hope of meeting someone new is set against their continuing real-life problems and finding common, if dark, ground. But this is a dark comedy, not a tragedy.

And thank God for that. As it is revealed the depths of despair have led both of them to contemplate the same course of action, the play came unnervingly close to this reviewer's own experience; so true, it seems not to be theatre. But the sincerity and humour of this play turns the unbearable to the bearable.

It is to the writer’s credit that he has created two believable characters, charting a difficult story with an up-to-date resonance. 

Permutt has a history of writing strong and complex female roles. Collins is a joy to watch as Gina, relishing her character and telling her tough tale; she’s working class, clever, compassionate, mixed-up and has been dealt a bad hand in her adult life.

Coen as Gideon is not merely a foil to Gina; he too is convincing in a role that is as real and as sexy as that of Collins.

Stark’s direction keeps the focus on the words in Permutt’s excellent script, while maintaining and stepping up the momentum of the play.

There is also Simon Daw’s ingenious backdrop - a stylised photo of council flats which also manages to double up as old-fashioned living room wallpaper.

This two-hander turns out to be a moving piece about modern Londoners thrown together in unexpected circumstances and a dark East End night merits a bright green TLT light.

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