We’ve all been there. Friday night out and one of the team proves to be a lightweight who can’t handle the alcohol. The problem is, what do you do with them once they get past the point of no return and become a burden on the rest of the group? This is the starting point to Malcolm Martin’s one act play “Nightflyer” at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
Blowtorch (Harvey Bassett) and Jamster (Matthew Emeny) are slightly the worse for wear as they leave a Bristol bar carrying their well out of it friend Spook (Jack Cottrell). In fact, Spook has pretty much collapsed and the two boys lay him, none too gently, on the floor then start talking about what to do with him. Blowtorch is having a great night and is all for leaving Spook to find his own way home to Chipping Sodbury but Jamster is worried and thinks the boys should take him home themselves. As they discuss this – with accusations from Blowtorch about Jamster being ‘a lush boy’, they are joined by Chloe (Hanna Kelly) and her friend Gennette (Anishka Klass) who have also been celebrating the start of the weekend with Bacchanalian disregard for tomorrow. As the girls get involved in the discussion, we find out that Chloe and Spook were in a relationship until earlier that day – which could explain both of their conditions this evening. Now there are four people to argue over what to do with Spook, their various personalities start to come out as they discuss not only the non-responsive recumbent Spook but also various elephants in the room with them – virtually a circus tent full in reality – leading to accusations, recriminations and changes in friendships that will never be the same again.
Writer Malcolm Martin based “Nightflyer” on an experience he had where ran into a bunch of drunk lads on the street. One of them was choking but the others were too out of it to notice. Taking the basic premise further, Malcolm has written an interesting play about teenagers on the cusp of real adulthood facing the reality of life and all its problems. With the exception of Spook – who spends a lot of the show lying on the floor – each of the characters has a believable personality that is easily identifiable with people in real life. Blowtorch is loud, brash, out for fun and hang the consequences. Jamie, is quieter, more thoughtful and hiding guilty secrets he is terrified might one day come out in the open. Chloe is the least likeable. Similar to Blowtorch in many ways but with an undercurrent of vindictiveness that really shows up in her dealings with Gennette, the most insecure of the quartet who just wants to be part of the group. All five actors really bring these characters to life superbly and make the action on the bare stage very realistic. Director James Woodhams shows a great deal of skill in keeping everything pretty much in the centre of the stage with Spook being the centre of – even if often ignored – the action throughout. Speaking of Spook, I am going to give a mention to Jack Cottrell here. Playing a drunk is never easy – it is so simple to turn the performance into an over the top caricature – but whether comatose or just coming round – demanding coffee, calling Chloe names or blurting out a dark secret – Jack delivered a superb performance as the inebriated central protagonist of the entire story.
My one criticism of the play is that it felt too short. Each of the characters has more to tell and experience on this night out, but given the running time, they have to rush a bit too much, meaning that on occasion threads are started and then almost dismissed. This is particularly true of Gennette’s scene where she opens up to Jamster and which goes a long way to explaining her character but is then suddenly over, due to a missing trainer. Likewise, I would have liked to know more about Blowtorch, although it is possible he really is as shallow as he appears so maybe that is all there is of him. The most interesting character for me was Jamster, whose story had a lot of twists and turns and, thanks to a wonderful piece of writing concerning the omniscience of Jesus, had me questioning my own religious beliefs after the show finished.
Summing up then “Nightflyer” was an intriguing piece of theatre that brought back memories of my youth – when, hopefully, I behaved better than some of the characters – and had me hooked completely from start to finish. Like the rest of the audience, I was swept along with the tale of a night out that went wrong and the sudden leap into adulthood for the people involved as their story moved towards its unexpected and highly emotional conclusion.
Review by Terry Eastham
Following a sell-out run at the Bath Fringe Festival, where it earned four star reviews, NightFlyer plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden, London on Monday 27th July, 7.30pm.
Directed by James Woodhams
Cast: Jack Cottrell, Matthew Emeny, Harvey Bassett, Hannah Kelly, Anishka Klass
TRISTAN BATES THEATRE
1A Tower St, Covent Garden
Monday 27 July 2015 at 7.30pm ( Duration 1 hour)
Tuesday 28th July 2015