In the Dead of Night**** (Landor Theatre)

Posted: April 27, 2015 in Theatre

received_10205533765199458This review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Film noir has just got plus noir. Whilst in Hollywood researching his last show, The Tailor- Made Man, writer/director Claudio Macor began asking himself the question: what would classic films of the 40s and 50s have been like if they could have escaped the straightjacket of the dreaded Hay’s Code, which regulated everything seen on screen? This show results from answers that he came up with. Some would argue that the Hay’s Code did film noir a favour. Perhaps suggestions of the forbidden – gestures, glances, coded conversations – could set the imagination racing and become far more potent than explicit words or graphic images. Happily, Macor does not discard these elements altogether and, aided by Paul Nicholas Dyke’s gloomy sets and Richard Lambert’s atmospheric lighting, he generates a mood and feel that is faithful to the genre. What we see is not exactly in monochrome, but it seems as if it is. The time is late 1945, the setting is the small coastal town of La Roca, somewhere in South America, that is rife with drug traffickers; Nazis are fleeing Europe and almost everyone else is escaping something from the past that is better forgotten. Elvira (Judith Paris), hardened and world-weary, runs the Bar Tangeros, distilling illicit tequila and acting as a mother figure to two prostitutes who work for her – the handsome Massimo (Jordan Alexander) and the seductive Rita (Susannah Allman), who sits with her long blond hair draped over her shoulders in the style of Veronica Lake, declining a glass of water on the grounds that it will give her a hangover. Ross Harper Millar is wonderfully sleazy as Martinez, a small-time drug dealer who lurks around, vermin-like and malodorous, besotted with Elvira; “did your mother give birth to you or did she vomit you up?” she asks him venomously. Elvira in turn is bitter over a past affair with a corrupt town official, Falchi (Ned Wolfgang Kelly). Macor’s script is lit up by the sort of cynical, barbed dialogue which typifies film noir, but he does not overlook another essential ingredient – romance. Rita is wooed by Raoul (Tristan Robin) and Massimo rekindles an affair with Leandro (Matt Mella), son of the local Mr Big; both couples sense that their relationships are ill-fated, being able to survive only within the amoral cocoon that is La Roca, which itself could be doomed. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this show is its stunning use of Latin American dancing, integrated perfectly into the drama. A prime example is the all-male Tango in which Leandro first seduces Massimo, but several ensemble routines also stand out, choreographed superbly by Anthony Whiteman to original music by Paul Boyd. In fact the dances are so good that we want more and they have the effect of making the scenes that follow immediately feel pedestrian. The show’s main problem is that the central narrative, played out mostly offstage, is not strong enough to propel the drama through stodgy patches, particularly in Act II when there is less dance; it always seems secondary to the romantic sub-plots and it produces unsatisfactory endings to all the strands. In the Dead of Night is imaginative, absorbing and, occasionally, thrilling entertainment. Yes, it needs modifications here and there and a bit of tightening up, but there are times when it creates an irresistible magic and it has the potential to become a really terrific show.

Performance date: 25 April 2015

Photograph: PND Photography

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