A Dark Night in Dalston at Park Theatre
While Park Theatre’s larger stage shows a very physical, homoerotic production of A Clockwork Orange, the intimate space named Park90 hosts A Dark Night in Dalston, a much tamer affair both in content and energy levels. Starring Michelle Collins, best known for her soap opera roles, and Joe Coen, the two-character play starts with the chance meeting between Gideon, a young observant Jew, and the lively Gina, a 49-year-old former nurse. The lonely lady finds the man wounded outside her house following an attack, and when she invites him in they begin to learn each other’s stories.
Gina has become the caretaker of her bed-ridden husband, while Gideon is trapped by family pressures into a job he hates, with an arranged marriage fast approaching. They find that behind the cultural barrier and their many personal differences they do share something on an emotional level. What starts off as a vaguely amusing, if stereotyped, exploration of the culture clash between the two, gradually becomes a messy, half-baked look at mental health issues. Both weighty themes are treated superficially and without an interest in showing accurate portrayals, let alone communicating something new, inspiring or provoking.
When it comes to the dialogues, playwright Stewart Permutt aims for a naturalistic feel, but this is taken too far. At times the audience is made to feel like an intruder in a stranger’s house, overhearing casual, banal conversations about food preferences or whether to call an Uber to get home. The pace is excruciatingly slow. The long and frequent pauses are all too realistic, and they feel heavy as they are not sustained by dramatic tension. This also means that there is no build up to the climax when it finally arrives – too weakly, too late.
The key feature of the set, which represents Gina’s kitchen and living room, is a wallpaper depicting the estate she inhabits, a nice reminder of the context. Aside from such small touches, the production seems to have been approached lazily. Everything from the meeting between the protagonists to their mutual attraction feels contrived and implausible. Michelle Collins has a nice energy on stage but both characters are underdeveloped. While some one-liners do elicit a few laughs, from the writing to the performance, A Dark Night in Dalston seems like a half-hearted effort.
Photo: Helen Murray
A Dark Night In Dalston is at Park Theatre from 7th March until 1st April 2017, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for A Dark Night in Dalston here: