Pros: The young cast bring good credibility and powerful acting onto the stage
Cons: Some scenes are too graphic and occasionally disturbing.
The Lion and Unicorn is a plain 60-seat venue above the homonymous pub. Nightflyer doesn’t have any set and most of the action happens in centre stage, against the black backdrop of a wall. Spook (Jack Cottrell) has passed out at the exit of a night club and he’s now on the floor, surrounded by his companions. Jamster (Matthew Emeny) is visibly worried and insists on making sure that he gets home all right, whereas Blowtorch (Harvey Bassett) is more preoccupied with continuing his party and getting on with Chloe (Hannah Kelly), who’s Spook’s ex-girlfriend.
The speech and posture of the characters seemed too sober to me, compared to their intoxicated behaviour. For example, after a failed attempt to kiss, Jamster and Gennette (Anishka Klass) mix religious talk to ghost stories, while waiting for a cab that takes ages to arrive. What happens on stage is patchy and doesn’t follow a real plot. Some traumatic memories come back from childhood but, despite their gravity, no one seems to be affected. By the end of this hour-long spectacle we are informed about most of the youngsters’ big secrets but none of the facts brings a significant twist to the story, whose ending has already been hinted throughout.
Unfortunately, this play is also more explicit that I’d have ever wished for. I was sitting on the first row and the profusion of graphic details made me uncomfortable more than once. When Spook is sick on the floor, I joined the cry of disgust coming from the back, before realising that I’d have to watch the rest of the show with this puddle of sick on stage in front of me. I can’t deny that the depiction are realistic, but I’d rather have left this element to my imagination. It isn’t hard, then, to guess my concern when Spook gets up on his feet, in need of a wee, but, thankfully, in this occasion I was spared the visuals. Sexual encounters are also lengthy and accurate. This might be considered prudish, but I’m persuaded that less would have been more and that, especially in a small theatre: the audience is well capable of filling certain gaps in the representation. However, as a result of this attention to detail, the acting is strongly engaged. Harvey Bassett is convincing in the role of the troublemaker Blowtorch and his presence on stage sets the tone and leads the rest of the cast towards an upbeat performance.
A play about young generations and what really happens in their world was never going to be easy and a certain inconsistency and distaste don’t help matters. However, ultimately this production did a great job in reflecting all the uneasiness that comes with the topic.
Author: Martin Malcom
Director: James Woodhams
Producer: Matthew Emeny
Box Office: 0843 515 9400
Booking Link: http://www.seetickets.com/tour/night-flyer
Booking Until: 12 March 2016