The Darkling Plain

This has been a busy week for me.  My other half has been off on a jolly jaunt around France with her school (45 first years in tow) so I’ve been left to my own devices.  Obviously paranoid of wasting my time watching Seinfeld on my own eating ice cream out of the tub, Imanaged to book myself solid all week.  The best thing that I have done is to go and see this play by a friend of mine, Bea Roberts.  It was a new production of an old play, being performed as part of Pride Bristol.

Bea wrote The Darkling Plain a few years ago and she took it to Edinburgh in 2008, where it received good reviews.  I didn’t really know her back then, so didn’t see it, meaning I was very excited about being able to watch it this time around.

The concept (if it is not too insulting to boil a significant piece of drama writing down to one idea) is to imagine how the people of Britain circa 1940 would cope with, rather than a war in which they are fighting a specific agressor nation in a bid to prevent at nation attacking their sovreignty, a war against an abstract concept; terror.  But it is obviously more than this and encompasses class difference, sexuality, love and friendship.  The most impressive thing I found was the seeming effortlessness with which Bea writes in the breezy, quick style of Noel Coward’s satire, to which this play is partly an homage.  At first I was worried that this would stop me from having a genuine emotional reaction to the characters, but as the plot darkened (the second half is much more serious than the first, as the reality of war sets in) I found my self more and more affected.  The two final scenes, with their dramatic and tragic climax, left me a little bit of a quivering wreck.

One final point about this production is that it was cast ‘gender blind’ in that actors were cast based on their suitability for a role, regardless of their gender.  This worked very well and I cannot fault the casting at all with particular mention going to Nick Finegan, who managed to convicingly portray both the middle class girl Rose and the cockney bloke Frank, resulting in being on stage for most of the play.

Direction was by another friend of mine, Emma Henry, who did a fabulous job at bringing out the human qualities of each of the characters with the simplest of touches (a maid precisely arranging the furniture during scene changes, for example).

All in all, a ruddy marvellous show!

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