After being named 2014's 'Most Promising Playwright' for devastating debut play Visitors, Barney Norris returns with a new play about life in rural Hampshire. Eventide glows with all the heart and humanity for which this young playwright is becoming known. And, based on Norris' own experience working in a country pub, it gives a gentle but deeply moving portrait of a community becoming hollowed out, and a culture with nothing left to cling to.
Three people talk in a pub garden. The landlord is selling up after splitting with his wife and marking the occasion with 'cheeky' morning beers. A young man confronts the death of his best friend and bemoans the struggle of finding work. A peppy out-of-towner travelling to to play the church organ stops for a cigarette and lemonade.
Each is struggling to reconcile the loss of a crucial part of their lives. And, like the poetry of Philip Larkin or A.E Houseman, the inevitability of time and change weaves through the narrative to create an elegy for unrealised hopes and fading values. As the lifeblood of the rural community ruptures through an increasingly marginalised church, diminishing employment prospects and the big chain commercialisation of the pub, Eventide is at once an intimate snapshot of three individuals and a love song to a kind of life that's slowly eroding.
Peppered with sharp humour bad 'dad jokes' and a droll awareness of his subjects' flaws and limitations, Norris' writing combines flashes of poignant poetry with pedestrian plausibility. As the inebriated landlord (played with spark and warmth by James Doherty) holds court, reflecting on his failed relationship and the fate of his beloved pub, the dialogue feel like what would happen if characters in TV soap operas read Matthew Arnold. And for all the looking back on failures and lost chances, the rhythm and narrative are carried forward with a 'getting on with it' mantra.
The drama and story are parochial, but the honesty and plausibility make them universally relatable; even from East London's Arcola Theatre, we found ourselves mourning for this rural community.
Eventide won't leave you sobbing in the aisles like Visitors, but Norris' second feature play is just as moving in its own quiet way.
|What||REVIEW: Eventide, Arcola Theatre|
|Where||Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street , London, E8 3DL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Highbury & Islington (underground)|
23 Sep 15 – 17 Oct 15, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£10 - £17|
|Website||Click here to book via the Arcola Theatre|