The Night Heron

Tue 1st – Sat 5th March 2016

reviews

Maddy Searle

at 21:39 on 1st Mar 2016

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The Night Heron is a surreal, darkly comic, yet ultimately tragic story, following the fate of three people attempting to come to terms with past deeds. Set in the fens, this play has a very local flavour, showing the student audience a side to Cambridgeshire that they probably have not experienced.

The set mimics the marshy location with various, browns and beiges: rustic planks and old fashioned dining furniture, coupled with a strange Byzantine image made up of multiple sheets of A4. This is the first clue to the main character’s troubled spirituality. Jess Wattmore, played by Jamie Robson, exudes a quiet desperation, his hands often folded across his chest, fingers rhythmically clutching at his arm. The play opens with Jess fetching a rope and preparing to use it to commit suicide, accompanied by the sounds of birds, water, and words from the Bible. As the play unfolds, Jess’s past misdemeanours slowly reveal themselves to us, and explain why he constantly mutters prayers under his breath.

Jess’s friend, Griffin (Nick Ash), fills the silence that Wattmore leaves, often in a brash and insensitive way. His prejudices against various people in the village and his lack of care for his troubled friend do not endear him to the audience, but make him an intriguing character. The pair soon adopt a woman as a lodger, Bolla Fogg (Carine Valarche), whose criminal record they only discover after offering her the room. Her quick changes of mood and flaming temper bring an entirely different energy to the play, often funny, but sometimes distressing.

In terms of plot, the play is rather disjointed and rambling, with long periods of seemingly inconsequential dialogue in the first act, followed by almost farcical occurrences in the second. In an attempt to help her landlords, Bolla kidnaps a male Cambidge student, thinking that he can help them win a lucrative poetry prize. The often unconscious student played by Duy Le, only has a couple of lines, but both of these gained the most laughter of all. The end of the play is somewhat sudden, leaving the audience rather dazed, but the issues the play brings to light are what stays with you once you leave the auditorium.

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