To whom can we entrust our security and happiness if not ourselves? Does that which makes us happy cease serving us if we hold onto it rather than utilizing its potential? The Night Alive, the most recent play by Tony and Olivier Award-winning playwright Conor McPherson, seeks to acknowledge, if not answer, these delicate questions.
Set in the all-too-familiar squalor of recession-era living, The Night Alive tells of a group of individuals all trying to find, and hold on to, a single source of happiness in their lives, be it a box of money stashed under the floorboards, or a vegetable garden never to be harvested. The mood swings smoothly between jovial laughter to shocked silence as each character tries to find what they need from one another.
Upon entering the theatre the production immediately demands the audience’s attention as we are made to witness an impoverished flat, brilliantly organized in its chaos and disarray by set designer Mark Pickell, which radiates both the struggles of day-to-day living as well as the comforts of home. Piles of paperbacks, two makeshift beds, tea, and a Marvin Gaye LP are scattered throughout the flat along with dirty clothing, exposed wires, aged walls, covered windows, and countless stray objects within the one room flat. The production uses the intimacy of the theatre’s limited space to their fullest advantage. Not a single beat passes in which one cannot feel the characters’ closeness to one another, brought on by their communal need to make a living in recession-era Ireland any way they can.
Director Ken Webster, who also leads in the role of Tommy, is the true standout of the production. Webster, as actor and director, never lets a moment linger too long, or allow his fellow actors to remain motiveless onstage. The silences brought on by the characters’ joy, dread, geniality, etc. are always charged with the intensity of the moment, and never waste the audience’s time.
Entrances and first impressions are quite telling in this production, as we begin with Tommy leading Aimee (Jess Hughes), bloody and bruised, into his filthy flat, followed one scene later by Tommy’s work partner, Doc (Robert S. Fisher), climbing through the flat’s window, and, later on, Kenneth (Joey Hood) silently steps onstage in ominous black attire. As a whole, the cast plays wonderfully off one another, never allowing for an exchange to feel unnatural, or out-of-synch with the production. Particularly, the affability shared between Tommy and his work partner, Doc, feels honestly genuine as they float between the laughs, shouts, and bickering that’s only found between those who resonate, and Webster and Fisher resonate beautifully.
The few issues I have with the production can be found in the wavering Irish accents of the cast, allowing their American accents to slip through on occasion, and the few instances of fight choreography coming off as noticeably staged, never allowing me to suspend my disbelief enough during those scenes to believe what I was witnessing. However, these are two very minor complaints with an all-around quality production.
Filled with that special brand of macabre humor mastered by Irish playwrights of the past and present, The Night Alive receives my recommendations for any lover of theatre and storytelling.
The Night Alive continues playing at The Hyde Park Theatre every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening at 8pm until Saturday, August 8th.