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Waiting for Dawn

by on 1 April 2019

Much Ado About Nothing

Waiting for Dawn

Nocturnal Productions at the Pop-Up Theatre until 1st April

Review by Avril Sunisa

“Unbeliveable” tended to be the reaction of the audience at last night’s premiere of Waiting for Dawn, at the inaugural outing of the ephemeral Nocturnal Productions company.

The concept of the non-venue specific production seems to be à la mode. For the weary theatre critic an invitation to review another such dramatic experience seems almost quotidian, but this performance emphatically shattered the mould. The theatrical conceit was that it should not be performed on a fixed acting space. Moreover the ethos of Nocturnal Productions is that the performance should be before sunrise, for its magic would be broken at noon.

Hence, the surprise venue for the specially invited audience was inspirational. When we arrived at Pop-Up Theatre, it was what might more accurately be described as a plop-up theatre, for it took place on an acting space that was certainly not fixed, on the River Thames itself. “Sweet Thames flow softly ‘til I end my song”, wrote Edmund Spencer in his Prothalamium, a phrase usurped by the dreary copier, T.S.Eliot. There was no such usurpation at last night’s premiere, which began shortly after midnight, and certainly no Waste Land. In fact, there was no land at all, as the performance took place solely on the quietly moving water. The moon, now in its third quarter, had not risen, and a superinundation of cumulus ensured there was not a glint to distract from the restful effect, so suited was it to this post-modern masterpiece.

dark water

Designer Hydra Cherwell is at the forefront of her profession in minimalist design and her work for Waiting for Dawn seemed totally effortless. Of course a remarkable designer needs a remarkable team, and what can one say about Lighting Designer, Elifrop Tops, fresh from his home town near North Cape, where he habitually spends each winter. His lighting design is unique in never using, to quote his own words, “wavelengths in the range 380 to 740 nanometres”. I have never seen anything like it, and it is only his own much vaunted modesty that prevents me from calling his work brilliant. Equally remarkable is the Sound Designer, “Buz” Rowfoe’s nihilistic soundtrack, which cleverly enhances Cherwell’s concept of silently moving water. It left me speechless. You could have heard a pin drop.

It is difficult to summarise the plot in less than a few words. Preposterogenious does not do it justice. It honours the classical unities of time, space and action, indeed bringing them to their ultimate. The plot centres around the inaction of Otto Nix, scion of a wealthy family of stopwatch makers. His parents, Bob and Anna, named him Otto as they liked the nature of a palindrome, in that it makes no difference if it goes forward or backwards, and it is this equilibrium that has informed Otto Nix’s life. The role of Nix was played with great indifference by Hamm Stil, who neatly underplayed the somnambulant hero to great effect. Then into Nix’s life strolls Fanny Grey, who has an imperturbable influence on him. She plays hard to get by totally ignoring him and eventually succeeds in losing his understated affections. The excellent ennui of Ida San Souci, who played the part of Fanny, gave an air of unconcern which provided the dramatic statement needed for this circumventive femme flatale.

However, Nix has an erstwhile rival Hugo Slack, a cataleptic villain whose inability to do no evil knows no bounds. It would be a spoiler to reveal the extent of the dramatic tension that leads to the play’s inevitable conclusion, but suffice it to say the incredible portrayal of Slack by veteran actor Cyrus Bender leaves one breathless with anticipation.

A cameo role by much loved household name Penelope Prolapse as Mrs Toxwell, the unnoticed chatelaine of Nix’s country mansion, brought a definitive punctuation mark to the skilfully measured denouement of the plot. However it was largely the unnamed minor characters that stood out as the deep bedrock of this phenomenal production and gave it the nuanced hint at a love story that is not be.


The audience received this minimalistic mood-piece as mind boggling. One felt them willing it to go on. Riveting.

Director Nemo Knightman is to be congratulated for an unforgettable spectre of theatre, which barely ruffled the waters of his fugitive stage, a low-energy footprint piece that is worth watching out for, in case it makes a revival.

The last Tuesday in March 2020 marks Nocturnal Productions’ next post-midnight premiere. It is firmly in my last diary. It is already in rehearsals, Waiting for Godot, the Musical. It is also mooted that the company is acquiring the rights to Waiting for Brexit, which is under discussion for Nocturnal Productions’ 2029 season. For the aficionado of the hypo-minimalistic theatre these productions will be a must!

Watch and watch this space.

Avril Sunisa
April 2019

Photography courtesy of Nocturnal Productions

From → Drama, Reviews

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  1. Waiting for Godot, the Silence | Mark Aspen

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