Theatre: A Dark Night in Dalston

Written by: Victoria Highfield

It’s Friday evening on a council estate in Dalston when Gideon (Coen), a young, middle class Jewish man from the other side of town is attacked and left wounded on the doorstep of permanent resident and ex Nurse Gina who insists on cleaning him up at her flat.

As dusk falls and Sabbath begins Gideon is stranded – much to Gina’s pleasure – and a long night (90 minutes worth) of dramedy unravels.

Writer Stewart Permutt questions multiculturalism, class divide and mental illness in this unusual black comedy.

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Our two protagonists bond over several whiskeys and things get, well, let’s say a little steamy.

Although there are some sweet light-hearted moments of salsa dancing and kiss and tell stories the script takes a darker turn when Gideon attempts suicide by taking a load of Gina’s painkillers.

However, what would have been a great platform for an honest yet humouring outlook on mental illness was pretty much glossed over.

Suicide is brought up once more when we are led to believe Gina is too debating taking her own life, however this is quickly dropped and instead more tedious dialogue between the characters ensue.

There’s only so much of ‘babes please stay for a cuppa/let me make you a sarnie babes’ you can take after it’s been said for the gazillinth time (sorry Michelle, because I really do think you’re great).

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I did love the reference to the dynamic Dalston and Simon Daw’s set design highlighted this. Park90 is a beautifully intimate space and we as an audience are perfectly poised as if on a couch within Gina’s East London living room/kitchen space.

At first the backdrop seems like some generically garish 70s wallpaper but on closer inspection you can see the imprint of the tower blocks of the estate.

This, alongside the vibrations of heavy drum and bass through the walls, is a subtle yet clever way of contextualising the performance as a constant reminder of urban living and gets top marks from me.

A clever set and talented actress were not enough to save this play unfortunately. As a play described as being ‘very, very funny’ there was a distinctive lack of laughs, aside from a few one liners from Collins which could be viewed as being offensive to those from other cultures.

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I wasn’t convinced by the portrayal of two characters plagued by mental illness; however this is down to the writing rather than the cast who worked their socks off throughout this lengthy performance.

A Dark Night in Dalston is showing at Park Theatre, Finsbury Park until 1st April 2017. Most tickets are selling out quick, but have a look here just in case. 

Photos c/o Nick Pearce.

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