Review: In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises), Gate Theatre

“Somewhere there’s a woman and

Nina Segal’s debut play In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises) begins with a couple bursting free out of shrink-wrapped confines, plastic film their amniotic sac from which they emerge with their tales of new-born woes. The problem is their new-born though, a baby daughter who just won’t stop crying and over the duration of one long, long night, they have their certainties well and truly rocked by the realisation of exactly what they have taken on as new parents in today’s world.

As Man and Woman recount the story first of how they met, then how they moved in together and soon found themselves expecting, we’re introduced to Segal’s poetic writing style of almost duelling narratives (“A woman and a man meet in a street/ A woman and a man meet in a bar”), a storytelling game to amuse their infant and whose rhetoric is designed to make connections for the audience. For the angst they’re feeling in the nursery is amplified by a sense that the horrors of the world outside are seeping in – baby’s first existential crisis.

It’s a device that works well in the domestic context – the increasingly exhausted parents are first torn apart and then thrust together by their fears and frustrations, haunted and hostile through lack of sleep and Adelle Leonce and Alex Waldmann nail the insecurity that crashes unannounced into their world. Ben Kidd’s direction is tightly focused throughout – there are magical moments when it feels like Leonce is talking to you and you alone and Waldmann’s desolation becomes increasingly moving.

And amidst the cramped clutter that builds up in Georgia Lowe’s cubic frame, where chaos is taking over from child-proofing and the ominous build of George Dennis’ textured sound design is eminently suggestible, Segal’s writing aims higher but doesn’t quite always reach the mark. Man and Woman’s doubts about bringing a child into this world lose their power when the threats are vaguely global, softly unspecific, it is from the personal that they recoil in appalled horror, the whispered unsayable “we shouldn’t have brought her here…” that the night is truly darkest.

A bold debut.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Bill Knight

Booking until 27th February

Originally written for LondonTheatre1

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