Nine Night is a bombastic debut from actor turned writer Natasha Gordon. It opened to a flurry of five-star reviews at the National's Dorfman Theatre and has now transferred to the Trafalgar Studios – and now Gordon has joined the cast to play the daughter at the centre of the drama. While the West End transfer is great news for those of us who missed the first run (and a remarkable achievement for a first-time playwright) the steeper ticket prices (£40+) have prompted criticism that parts of the community at the heart of the play are priced out of seeing it.
Starting off with the death of matriarch Gloria, the play shows us three generations of family grieving.
Family and friends gather in Gloria’s home for nine nights in a row for a traditional West Indian wake to honour her memory. It’s a lively affair, with rum and patties and the kind of close to bone jibes that come with the intimacy of familial bonds.
We see how Caribbean roots and British upbringing entwine, as traditions are learned and passed down from a country that is no longer home – and for most family members, never has been.
Cecilia Noble as Aunt Maggie and Ricky Fearon as Uncle Vince in Nine Night at the National Theatre. Photo by Helen Murray
It falls upon Lorriane (who is played by playright Natasha Gordon) to host and cater for the extended wake. After months of nursing her terminally ill mother, Lorraine’s wiped out and the Jamacian jollity and dances jar with the British aspects of her upbringing.
Her brother Robert (Oliver Alvin-Wise) is too caught up in his own plans to get rich to be much help and her student daughter Anita is trying to negotiate her own racial and cultural identity.
Olivier-nominated Cecilia Noble (Lady in the Van; Amen Corner, National Theatre 2014) is show-stealingly brilliant as Aunt Maggie, who bustles in with her demands, opinions and patois slang, leaving the audience whooping with laughter.
Over an hour and 50 minutes we witness the mourning process play out from Gloria’s death, to funeral decisions, to the final goodbye. Director Roy Alexander Weise maintains a vibrant production that swells between belly laughs and stifling grief.
Nine Night is a warm and loving immersion into a specific tradition in a particular culture, but it’s the universality that is most striking; it’s about grief in its many guises and family in all its unruly, raw complexity.
Natasha Gordon, Karl Collins, Michelle Greenidge, Cecilia Noble and Rebekah Murrell in Nine Night. Photo by Helen Murray
|Nine Night, Trafalgar Studios review
|Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY | MAP
|Charing Cross (underground)
01 Dec 18 – 23 Feb 19, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
|£15 - £40
|Click here to book now