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The Night Alive (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: The Night Alive

Society: Tower Theatre Company

Venue: Tower Theatre. 16 Northwold Road, Stoke Newington,London N16 7HR

Credits: By Conor Mcphereson

The Night Alive

3 stars


Photo: Pau Ros

It’s an interesting play with a lot of heart. First staged in 2013 at Donmar Warehouse, it presents five people in a Dublin suburb. Four of them are deeply troubled people with heartbreaking issues and problems. The fifth is a thoroughly nasty, dangerous thug named Kenneth (Elliot Archer – pleasing performance) with whom we feel no sympathy whatever.

Tommy (Kevin Furness) lives in squalor on the ground floor of a house belonging to his Uncle Morris (Peta Barker). He is surrounded by discarded drink tins, used mugs, traffic cone, discarded clothes and other random detritus. Set designer, Max Batty, who also gives us stained glass double doors at the back though which we infer time of day, has done a good job.

Tommy brings in Aimee (Laura Flemming), a stranger, from the street to tend to her damaged face. She is, we gradually realise, a part time prostitute and thief who has been punched by her boyfriend/pimp, Kenneth. Gradually Tommy and Aimee strike up a rapport – of sorts.  And eventually an incident – no spoilers – bonds them more tightly then perhaps either wants.  Both actors are convincing.

The best acting in this production, though, comes from Alan Maddrell as Doc, Tommy’s friend, workmate (they run a dubious general business with a van) and quasi dependent. Doc has mild learning difficulties and there’s a whiff of Of Mice and Men about the exasperated fraternity between them. Maddrell rarely smiles, pushes his point doggedly and says some unexpectedly profound things. It’s a nicely nuanced and pretty impressive performance.

Peta Barker is good too. Uncle Morris is bereaved, lonely and “respectable”. He wears a suit and berates Tommy for “living like this” and forgetting his aunt’s memorial mass. There’s a well observed drunk scene in which we feel both sorry for, and exasperated with, him.

There is, however, a problem with voice work in actors who haven’t benefited from drama school training. Fleming is a native Dubliner and well cast in this role but Furness works too hard at the accent and sometimes his words are lost – accomplished as he is in other ways. Both Maddrell and Barker go for a gentler version which doesn’t sound particularly Irish but which works well enough.

This production of The Night Alive is, however, decently directed and pretty watchable.


First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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