Secrets and Lies
Set on a failing farm, 2 siblings Lou and Ryan, are ruled by Jenny, a domineering matriarch who is determined to keep her son and daughter at home on the farm, 2 years after the death of their father, her husband. Pete, a childhood friend of the siblings and Lou’s former boyfriend, has returned from prison and assists by helping Ryan to siphon oil from a pipeline running through the family’s farmland . The protagonists hold secrets from each other and have lied to each other, including themselves; Jenny is perhaps the most self-deluded of all. Everything unravels during the course of the play.
Jenny, played by Claire Skinner with the right amount of cynicism balanced with self-delusion, still mourns and sentimentalises Lou and Ryan’s father. However Sion Daniel Young’s Ryan confronts his mother with the reality that their father was a bully, left the family with £200k of debt and the looming bank repossession of their farm.
Ophelia Lovibond presents us with an earnest Lou, a millennial who talks about her disaffection with her life; how she lost sight of what she really wants by “going after money,” to the extent where she feels like she has lost control: “I want to choose things that happen to me.”
Ukweli Roach’s nuanced performance as Pete radically alters the dynamics as Lou’s former boyfriend and as Ryan’s childhood friend, who took the blame for Ryan’s behaviour whilst Ryan was intoxicated. During the play, Pete changes from an affable and helpful friend, to someone who stands up for himself. He is no longer prepared to take the rap for Ryan or to be mistreated by Jenny, who verbally lashes out at him for fear of losing Lou to him.
Jenny’s character allows Nightfall to make observations about the “empty nest” syndrome, which is even worse for Jenny, a controlling woman facing the loss of her adult children to the world. Combined with her bereavement, it is overwhelming, Jenny laments: “They’re going away from me and no-one sees how much it hurts.”
Ryan is critical of those who romanticise farming and points out the hypocrisy. He comments: “I chuck chemicals on wheat, I make money from making food” so what’s the difference between that and making money from oil? Ultimately, Ryan, who initially appears not to be as quick witted as everyone else, is perhaps the most insightful of all family members, except perhaps about his own feelings about the farm and towards Pete. Ryan allows Jenny to realise that they should sell their farm to the housing developers, for whom, incidentally, Lou has been working.
Nightfall is peppered with amusing lines, which are like pithy sayings providing us with observations about a range of topics. Certainly, Nightfall could be perceived as giving us a social commentary about a variety of issues, some of which are specific to rural communities; how some farms and rural communities are struggling to survive in poverty, the pressures for housing in the countryside and the impact of drug and alcohol abuse. The play also deals with general issues such as: the impact of controlling parents on families, the difficulties facing millennials, bereavement and grief. Although the character development was really good, evolving naturally throughout the play, I found it difficult to engage with the play, particularly the first act, which I believe would benefit from more editing and being at a faster pace. However the rest of the audience really enjoyed Nightfall and laughed uproariously at the amusing lines and scenes.
Photos by Manuel Harlan
Nightfall is at Bridge Theatre from 1- 26 May 2018, for more information go to http://www.bridgetheatre.co.uk