Cold com­fort down on the farm

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE - Robert Gore-Lang­ton

Night­fall The Bridge Theatre, London Un­til May 26, 2hrs 20mins

It’s al­ways a re­lief to see a new play set out­side the M25. Bar­ney Nor­ris’s lat­est finds us be­side a farm­house near Winch­ester. There’s a sep­tic tank, a de­ceased trac­tor, an even deader crow and an oil pipe run­ning across the prop­erty. The sub­ject here is the shift­ing fam­ily equilib­rium fol­low­ing a farmer’s death. (By the sound of him, a psy­cho farmer who once shot a labrador for tres­pass­ing on his grass.) The son, Ryan, is keep­ing things go­ing – just. His mate Pete has come out of prison and they’re si­phon­ing oil from the pipe for ready cash. Ryan’s kid sis­ter, Lou, has re­turned to be with their griev­ing mum, Jenny, who lis­tens to Fleet­wood Mac and drinks. Played by Claire Skin­ner, Jenny loves the home­stead and the way of life it rep­re­sents. But to her feck­less son (Sion Daniel Young), farm­ing is just ‘pour-

ing chem­i­cals over wheat’. The air is thick with un­cer­tainty, anger and the mother’s re­sent­ment of Pete (Uk­weli Roach), who threat­ens to steal her daugh­ter away. Per­formed in all-pur­pose ru­ral ac­cents, Lau­rie San­som’s pro­duc­tion is much en­livened by ris­ing star Ophe­lia Lovi­bond as Lou, whose heart is vividly torn. With swelling mu­sic and a set with a moody, span­gled sky, the play is packed with sharp, buried emo­tions that crop up like flint in the Hamp­shire chalk. It’s im­pres­sive writ­ing. But for my money, Nor­ris too read­ily con­forms to the play­writ­ing rule that farm­ing life must be served with a trail­er­load of pes­simism.

Ophe­lia Lovi­bond, Sion Daniel Young and Uk­weli Roach. Right: Claire Skin­ner and Young. Far right: Lovi­bond and Roach

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