Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Sion Daniel Young- Peak Acting

Nightfall

Bridge Theatre , Bridge Theatre , May-25-18
Nightfall by Bridge Theatre The stamp of Wales on London is considerable. Some of the footprint is overt, some needs seeking out. The chapel is grand. In the bonfire of the retailers John Lewis is battered, but still there large and opulent. But it takes a knowing eye to find the memorial plaque at Gray's Inn or enter the Fitzroy Tavern with its fulsome homage to Augustus John, Dylan Thomas, Nina Hamnett. The Soho Theatre is three minutes' walk from the Fitzroy and the Wheatsheaf. The nightly detonation on stage of Alex Griffin-Griffiths is the third time a production of Wales has visited the Soho in recent years.

From the Soho Theatre it is a couple of minutes' walk to Shaftesbury Avenue and a theatre with a three feet by two feet picture of Rhys Warrington. He is an associate of Chippy Lane, who may well go where Dirty Protest has led. In the meantime the part of Christopher Wren is eight performances a week for weeks on end, which is good for any actor. It is entry to a club that has no like in theatre. It also incidentally flows, via the Colwinston Trust, into funding for the arts of Wales. And three miles east a third actor, Sion Daniel Young, is to be seen. In the view of the Stage: “Sion Daniel Young, as son Ryan, carries Laurie Sansom’s production.” It is a nice comment to have.

“Nightfall” has a cast of four: widowed mother, son, daughter, boyfriend. The Bridge has reconfigured itself again for its third production. The thrust stage is huge, the set awes, the sunsets that play across the wide curved back-screen thrill. The London critics as a group thought the scale wrong for the play. “It would work in a studio or a smaller fringe theatre”, said a good one, “but here it’s overexposed and, because of that, we can see the bones through the skin.” Not so: a tight studio setting would no more flatter the play than this grandeur. It sags for the most basic of reasons; the characters do not have enough to do. It cries for action.

Dramatists have difficulty when it comes to the country. New plays are urban, like their makers and like their audiences. In Welsh theatre “the Rabbit”, a good while back, convinced. Even Tim Price and Gary Owen were less sure-footed when they shifted their locations to Pembrokeshire. The howlers in “Nightfall” howl. No farmer takes an axe to a tree. They do not have the time. It is second-homers who own axes not chain-saws. When Ryan declares the best of time of year to cut wood he gets it wholly wrong.

Two of the characters work in town. “I do photocopying” says the daughter. That is short-hand dialogue for a writer not doing research into office life of 2018. But farmer mother and son spend their time sipping wine, planning trips to the London theatre. When a script mentions Prince and Bowie it is not paying attention to where it is. There is a bagginess to the writing that is simultaneous thinness. “I have a right to feel as I feel.” Generalities prevail. “Why would you make your life about your work?” Summations and emotional encapsulations sink action. “I think we've tried very hard not to think about what's happening.” The theme echoes Chekhov but has lines like “Home was a time when we were together.” It also breaks Chekhov's rule about the loaded rifle on stage. These people do not do anything and have no friends or connections. It is up to the director- happily a league-oner here- and company to animate it.

Back to the view of the Stage: “As she [mother] reminisces about Ryan’s late dad, Young sits next to her slightly awkward at her display of raw emotion, feigning boredom because boys aren’t very good at talking to their mums, but giving enough murmurs to appease her. Young’s attentiveness as an actor really stands out. He’s always reacting, always in the room.” The detail in the performance is formidable.

Sion Daniel Young's route to the Bridge has been via some of the peaks of Wales' theatre: Llwyth, the Radicalisation of Bradley Manning, Killology. Acting comes to the fore when writing gives them not enough to do or be. Then it is down to presence and here that presence is magnetic.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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