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A CurtainUp London Review
A theatrical interpretation of a Nocturne musical piece, this play has a solo performance in a single movement with strong emotional overtones of night. Fifteen years after a horrific accident, an insomniac man who inadvertently killed his kid sister, describes the tragedy and his grief-ridden life. The play is a 100 minute monologue, composed of very exact, detailed descriptions. Both graphic and poetic, these sense-oriented observational conceits carefully deconstruct the world around the narrator and immerse the audience into his introverted world of thought. Transposed onto the stage, the audience witness someone who has turned within himself and his sub-vocalised mind, traumatised by a sudden tragedy and the subsequent alienation.
Self-consciously steeped in literary escapism, the narrator's speech pattern has a lyrical vividness, seemingly imbibed from some of the novelists he mentions as his refuge: Hemingway, Haruki Murakami and William Faulkner among others. The narrator, a former piano prodigy, has a sensitive awareness of sound and his musician's ear is integral to his perspective; for example, he will describe everyday events with aural consciousness: "An aluminium bat hitting a ball is one of the greatest notes of July. A D, I think. A split-second song. A little chink of hope. "
Peter MacDonald has no easy task as the single star of this production, but gives a finely-nuanced and subtly heart-rending performance. With his softly gravelly voice which loses none of its texture in adopting an American accent, he portrays the quiet loss and emptiness of a life full of unresolved grief and sober disaffection. There still seems to be some of the 17 year old boy in this man, who has an acute consciousness but no spiritual or philosophical apparatus to deal with the tragedy.
On an unfilled stage with crumbling walls which reflect the pared-down simplicity of the play, a single chair is suspended from a meat hook on one side and a large light bulb on the other. The lighting delicately reflects the narrator's description, while a video is intermittently projected onto a large circular screen at the back of the stage. Representing a collage combining the skidding white lines of road-markings and clashing piano keys, the video is so restrained it is almost negligible.
Nocturne, as a verbal and observational exploration of grief, could just as effectively have been a radio play. Although poignantly sad, this portrayal of ongoing blankness is perhaps a little too quietly elegiac and distanced from much immediate, visceral emotion. Without much variety or range, the emotive, pseudo-autobiographical subject and the minutiae of poetic descriptions is not quite enough to guarantee interest for its entire duration.
For a revuew if this play when it ran Off-Broadway go here
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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