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Theatre Review: Nine Night @ Trafalgar Studios

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Nine Night, the debut play by Natasha Gordon, premiered at The National Theatre (Dorfman) and has now transferred to Trafalgar Studios.

The name of the play comes from a tradition practised in the Caribbean - the nine nights wake - that is an extended wake following the death of a loved one.

In “Nine Night” we meet a second-generation Jamaican family on the evening of the death of the matriarch, Gloria. The loss of this important member of their family leads to a wake and mourning, where the split identity sense of belonging to two cultures is confronted.

Image courtesy of the National Theatre

The theme of the play is very much the complications of having two nationalities, being born and raised in the English society, but still wanting to honour your roots.

Though this is a well written script that manages to tackle sorrow through humour, something is missing. There are a lot of interesting family stories introduced, but the audience is left hanging, lacking an explanation, or some kind of catharsis, as all these smaller stories are presented but then never followed up on.

On this night the actor usually playing aunt Maggie, Cecilia Noble, was indisposed, and though the understudy, Jade Hackett, lifts the role and brings energy into it, she couldn’t pass for a woman in her 70’s. This was a shame, as it pulls you out of the story that both the actor playing Aunt Maggie and the character playing Uncle Vince were much younger than they were portraying.

The staging is very naturalistic, and you really feel like you are in the house where these people grew up. The directing by Roy Alexander Weise is well done and serves to make everything believable, though at times the scene changes become drawn out.

Nine Night is a play with many small scenes, and at times the scene changes take almost as much time as a scene, causing the play to lose some of its drive.

The play is most certainly lifted as Trudy, Michelle Greenidge, comes on stage, her spark and energy invigorates the entire cast, and the role is so heart-warming and well-acted, that we get sucked back in.

What is amazing about the play is how it brings another audience to the theatre, but a lot of the jokes seem tailor-made for a specific set of viewers and are lost on the majority of the non-Jamaican audience members, which is a shame as the glimpse into another culture is so interesting, and the themes relatable for a lot of people.

But regardless, Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night is the first play by a black woman to be put on at the west end, and that is a mile stone.

Nine Night will be running at Trafalgar Studios till 23rd February, and tickets can be purchased here.




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