Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham, Wednesday 24th July, 2019
Sometimes you go to the theatre and they get everything right. The artistic choices made serve the material perfectly, and the performance of the piece is just exquisite. An example of this is this neat little one-act two-hander from the pen (or the keyboard) of Darren Haywood, one of Birmingham’s most consistently excellent playwrights.
Set on a cliff top, the action concerns the meeting of two strangers, each with their own reason to be there. Their lives have brought them to this point, this place with a view, with a view to tossing themselves off (the cliff). Lara, a solicitor by trade, is dealing with a crisis in her personal life. Kris, a betting-shop worker, has drink and gambling issues, and the debts are piling up… The pair strike up a conversation, and come to an understanding and appreciation of each other. Haywood spares us scenes of gut-spilling and deep-and-meaningfuls. Instead, the conversation is interspersed with the characters’ inner monologues, so we are privy to their innermost thoughts, we come to learn their personal histories, while their outward discourse rattles along in fits and starts. The two share a moment of real connection, and we suspect they may not go through with their separate plans of ending it all after all. We suspect this may not be the end of them, not the last of their conversations…
As the somewhat stroppy Lara, Emily Summers is superb. Her annoyance with the interloper Kris is writ large on her features, while her internal turmoil is more subtly portrayed. The monologue where she reveals the nature and story of her anguish is powerfully played.
As the gauche, wise-cracking Kris, Davey Ezra imbues the character with more than snappy one-liners. Kris uses humour as a shield, and Ezra lets us see beneath the mask. His big monologue about an opportunity to steal from his employer is recounted with conviction and truth.
The actors are helped massively by the quality of Haywood’s writing. Haywood has an ear for naturalistic dialogue and can write in quips and retorts that sound like they arise from the conversation. He can also shape the action, keeping his cards close to his chest, gradually dealing them out so we get to know the characters and their situations in an organic way. It works brilliantly.
Also directing this production, Haywood keeps staging to the absolute minimum, so his words, via the actors, are given full sway. A raised platform serves as the cliff top at Beachy Head. Seagulls and surf on a loop are all the scenic colour required. It truly is a case of less being more. Slight dips in the lighting cover represent the night drawing in – we don’t even need to see the sundown of the title.
Funny, intriguing and touching, Sundown runs for less than an hour but is thoroughly satisfying – perhaps because of its constraints.
I loved it.