In The Night time before the Sun rises.
Monday 8 February 2016
Nina Segal has written an existential play that uses a young couple and their screaming baby to draw parallels with devastations across the globe. The characters ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ narrate their life story in third person to the audience, weaving their own situation with meditations on ‘all the ways in which the world is hard and broken’. Segal’s message is that everything that occurs is in some way related, which challenges our feeling of disconnect to the world around us. It’s an interesting framework, but the direct address to the audience prevents any real intimacy between the couple at the heart of this rather too bleak tale.
Georgia Lowe’s set design becomes progressively claustrophobic as musical baby toys invade the space. A doll with a flashing head triggers a siren that creates urgency as the child screams, yet too often the actors have to shout to compete with the noise. As the parents become tired and delirious, the promise of new insight is clouded by their frustration and bickering. Yet, perhaps that’s the point Segal is trying to make. In a world where mindfulness is the trend, we spend more energy on exploring our relationship with the planet than fixing our relationships at home. Some home video footage offers a poignant example of how we build a lens between ourselves and even our intimate surroundings.
Alex Waldmann and Adele Leonce offer strong performances that occasionally suffer from tangled observations and slumps in energy. A battle of story telling over the crying child delves into an obscure metaphor that nods briefly at sexism and gives up on its own point. There is beauty in the couple’s effort to grasp an understanding of life and its value, yet their characters don’t develop beyond vessels of Segal’s own reflections. The binary nature of the extraordinary/commonplace observations becomes a predictable formula, and the repetition of the ironically spoken ‘the two things are not connected’ wears thin.
There is promise in this piece. The hallucinatory nature of exhaustion allows the tired pair to swerve through time and space, offering a great basis for metaphysical conversation. Much similar yet not as gripping as Duncan MacMillan’s LUNGS, Segal poses the question: ‘Should they ever have brought this child into such a wounded world?’ Her stunning resolve comes in the description of an egg, unbreakable between its two strongest parts. Will this Man and Woman be strong enough to protect their newborn from an apocalyptic world? A lot more resilience, and a few less cracks would have offered more assurance.