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by on 27 June 2018

Tradition Bars Progress


by Barney Norris

Questors Theatre, The Questors Studio, Ealing, until 30th June

Review by Denis Valentine

Eventide is an interesting play, with a lovely set for the actors to work on, which raises many recognizable themes and ideas. The performers are very earnest in their efforts and, although needing a little more refinement in certain areas, the show offers an interesting evening of fringe theatre.

From his show notes, director Daniel Cawtheray makes particular mention of the idea of exploring the way ‘tradition is being overhauled by progress’ and that is a strong undercurrent to the performances he brings out so well in his actors.

Each character’s arch features a gradual build, where their stories unravel and that aspect of the writing is well captured by the performers. Anil Goutam as John arrives as the loudmouthed landlord telling a dirty joke, but over the course of the first act that bravado gives way to a man at a crossroads, completely unsure of where he is heading. The fact that his dirty joke, with the punch line being based around old fashioned gender roles only elicits laughs out of politeness and awkwardness from the two he’s telling it too, is reflective of a person being lost to an older time and not quite understanding how things have moved on. There is genuine sympathy built for the character in Anil’s performance and his exit from the play is edged with the sadness of another person lost to the changings of time.

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Dani Beckett as Liz brings a wonderful natural vibe to proceedings and as the straight character in the play provides a steady basis to her scenes, which allow the two more eccentric figures to spiral off from. There is a subtle hidden pain to her character’s story and it is poignant that she does not appear in the final scene to seek out that last dramatic moment.

The show at times features some insightful dialogue and moments that offer a commentary on aspects of the modern world; a particular favourite of mine being “you’re a tosser but I admire you for trying to work your way out of it,” something that could be applied to a whole host of people in the current public consciousness. The show and performances would benefit from proceedings being occasionally slowed down a little to let them really resonate with the audience, as at times it felt that, just as a point or idea was being made, we were already onto the next thought without being given enough time to let the previous one land.

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The character of Mark played by Zac Karaman is a man who is at the crucial stage of life where youthful optimism clashes with the harsh realities of adulthood. Much is made of the entitlement of the ‘millennial’ generation in today’s society and the overall arc of his interactions with John and their battle for ‘who has had it harder and who has more right to be upset’ is well realised. Karaman also delivers perhaps the play’s most heart wrenching moment, with his revelation that he is the one who has to rebuild the monument, with which the love of his life recently had a fatal encounter. It is a well-crafted moment from playwright Barney Norris, which Karaman allows to land with the most bitter of ironies; a very poignant moment exploring the idea of just how brutal and devoid of any sentimentality the world can be at times.

Special mention must also go to the set and its designer Andrew Hiat-Lacey and the Questors Design Department. On walking into the theatre the audience is met with a tranquil pub beer garden, which on a hot summer’s night looks ideal for sitting and relaxing in. It is the sort of set that instantly holds your attention and leaves you interested in what is going to be taking place on it. The way it changes after the interval fits in brilliantly with the aforementioned main theme of the play, as gone is the lovely back garden feel of the benches and grass (tradition) and in its place is the drab, grey steel of any generic modern day café-pub establishment (progress).

The show is not without a few odd moments and would benefit from adjusting its pace in certain places. Some of the character decisions are at times a little jarring, particularly in the second half (beginning to ask a groom about the death of his ex-girlfriend on his wedding day), which at times break the naturalistic feel of proceedings and seem to be more of a ‘plot device’ to launch into the next point rather than being part of an organic flow in the proceedings.

For anyone looking for an evening of Theatre that offers a small insight to the lives of three characters with some reflection on the modern state of society and some of the people in it, then Eventide is a decent fix.

Denis Valentine
June 2018

Photography by Jane


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