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Writer: John Fosse


Translator: Gregory Motton


Director: Hamish MacDougall


Designer: Jemima Carter-Lewis


Cock Tavern Theatre


30 January – 20 February 2010









A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

We’re always trying to reinvent and innovate that crazy thing we call theatre. We add a projector or two, or have a few special effects scattered here and there. We try to recreate Shakespeare using just the actors on an empty stage and a chair with a tangerine on it. We set our plays in real locations, putting the audience into a real construction site, or a hotel, or wherever else. We want to reinvent, innovate and, well, redefine the idea of theatre. We’re moving into decade two of the twenty first century – surely it would be stupid not to?

Sometimes, though, I quite like stupidity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for projectors and tangerines of any kind; but sometimes (well, a lot of time actually), I like to go watch a group of actors, on a stage with a reasonably-designed set, and let them do their thing. The old school way, so to speak.

This, my friends, is why I thoroughly enjoyed Jon Fosse’s Nightsongs. We all have that reason for coming back to the theatre time and time again and, for me, it’s a play like this. An hour of intense drama that keeps me glued to my chair, hanging on to every word.

Nightsongs has quite a basic premise – a couple’s relationship is on the brink of collapsing over one day, due in part to his inability to leave the house; her desire to break free; and the newborn baby they’ve now got to deal with. As the day progresses things get worse, finally coming to a head at the break of dawn.

Calling the set for this production reasonable would be a bit of a disservice – considering we spend the whole hour in the one location, it was important that the designers delivered. They did. What that means is that, with nothing else to worry or fret about, our focus fixates entirely on the actors.

And, yes, they too delivered. The two leads are a joy to watch from start to finish, with perfectly realised characters and a strange chemistry that draws you in. Part of the credit does deservedly go to Gregory Motton, who adapted the original Norwegian script, and director Hamish MacDougall. But nothing should be taken away from the two stars; there is a level of intensity, especially from Peter James, that leaves even the audience exhausted. At the same time, there was an effort in making less mean more. Subtle changes in facial expressions, suppression in dialogue delivery and intelligent uses of silence all mesh together to enhance the viewing experience. Comic relief in the piece does not jar the flow either; it seems to come at perfect moments to draw more humour, helped by great comic timing from it’s cast.

There really isn’t anything negative to say about this, and trying to would be me clutching at straws. This is, again, old school theatre at its best. It needed strong performances to give justice to a great script, and the actors fired on all cylinders.

If you have an hour to spare, the Cock Tavern is definitely a recommendation. Perhaps saying that Nightsongs didn’t try to reinvent or redefine theatre would be seen as a criticism. I, however, didn’t want reinvention tonight. I wanted a good night at the theatre. And I got it.



Sat 30th Jan / Sat 6th Feb / Sat 13th Feb / Sat 20th Feb - at 3pm

Sun 31st Jan / Mon 1st Feb / Sun 7th Feb / Mon 8th  Feb / Sun 14th Feb / Mon 15th Feb - at 7.30pm

Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions)

The Cock Tavern Theatre, 125 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 6JH

Box Office: 08444 771 000












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