Review: The Daylight Atheist, Old Red Lion

A chance to catch some New Zealand theatre comes courtesy of one-man-play The Daylight Atheist at the Old Red Lion

“When the sun goes down, I believe like you wouldn´t believe…”

It is a little hard to check given how much theatre I’ve seen over the last 15 years or so but I suspect this may be the first New Zealand play I’ve ever seen. Tom Scott’s The Daylight Atheist ranks as one of NZ’s most popular and oft-performed plays since debuting in 2002 and some 22 years later, it now receives its UK premiere in the cosy surroundings of the Old Red Lion.

A globe-spanning one-person-show, Scott draws loosely from his father’s life to tell the story of a rather singular man. From his Northern Irish childhood to old age in New Zealand, Danny Moffat has very much trodden his own path and is determined to tell us all about it no matter how poorly he might come across. As we find out, he also might not necessarily be the most reliable narrator.

Owen Lindsay delivers a phenomenal performance as Danny, his snatched reminiscences lending an episodic structure to the play as we barrel through memories of being sent away from his family to live with an unhappy aunt, to his experience in the airforce in World War II, to making a new family life in New Zealand. Along the way, he’s done some pretty shitty things and treated many people terribly but somehow, Lindsay comes close to carrying us along with him.

Richard Panzenböck, an Austrian making his London directorial debut here, does an impressive job of holding its own line. Maintaining a steadier pace than one might have expected and relishing the lack of clear-cut motive for the curdling of character, his focus comes instead in the detail of the tattered set and the dark humour that does so much keep us engaged with Danny.

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