‘The Nightwatchman’ is a tale of memories, written in 2005 by Melbourne dramatist and director, 64 yrs. old Daniel Keene. Most of Keene’s earlier plays were written in French. Keene has won many major writing awards both in Australia and France, mainly because of his poetic style of dialogue. One of his works won a Wal Cherry Best Stage Play award.
‘The Nightwatchman’ is playing at Melville Theatre, 393 Canning Highway (on the corner of Stock Road), Palmyra.
The two-hour nostalgic play has curtain-up each evening at 8.00 pm until Saturday 28th September. There is one matinée on Sunday 22nd at 2.00 pm.
The Scene: It is the 1990s. At a small chateau in the countryside of Burgundy, an area of central France near Dijon famous for Beaujolais and mustard.
The impressive Set was designed and built by Peter Bloor, Ross Bertinshaw, Jacob Jensen and Kit Leake. This set shows a rear patio area of an old limestone house. Patio doors open onto the raised area with two sets of outside dining furniture that catch the sun at different times of the day (Clever lighting from designers Jacob and Lars Jensen). Three steps lead down from the patio to a concrete footpath and sculptured lawn. There were trellises with climbing roses and vines.
The scenic artist was Tim Prosser who was helped by Vanessa Vencatachellum. So realistic was their artwork that I had to approach the stage to see if the limestone blocks were painted on 3-D moulds or a flat surface. The brick contours showed a light gathering of moss and soil staining. Outstanding.
The sound and lighting were operated by Barbara Lovell. Barbara has a great touch, providing just a hint of country atmosphere. The birds twittered and an orchestral suggestion of ‘The Windmills of My Mind’, a hit of the day.
Stage managed by Susan Lynch.
The stylish programme was designed by Vanessa Jensen and the poster of a cherry tree by Sarah Ewen.
Now approaching middle age, Helen (Andrea O’Donnell) being a caring and loving daughter, has arrived to see her father at the small chateau that has served as the family home for her whole life. Her Dad, William (Alan Kennedy) is now in his early seventies; although generally very well and happy, he has just lost his eyesight. There is a cleaner and general home help who pops in, but things are just getting too much.
With her Dad’s blessing, he has agreed to move to ‘another place’ (unspecified) where he will be supervised and manage easier. Helen’s brother, Michael (Garry Davies) arrives to help, but seems to show little interest in his father or his future wellbeing. The family discuss their memories of the house.
Will the father move or stay?
The director of this sensitive play is WA’s Irish treasure, Siobhán O’Gara. Siobhán has had award nominations as director for a couple of her plays. With years of experience around Australia, Siobhán has brought us a fine version of this family-based play. The play is a little long-winded, but the content is so true of what many of us will have experienced, either as an elderly relative or the younger members seeing their loved ones becoming less able to cope.
This two-hour play is a three-hander, which means a huge number of lines each for the actors. This team have loads of experience and were very well rehearsed. Playing a blind man, Alan Kennedy had his eyes closed every second of the play so relied solely on verbal cues; for most actors, watching the expression of others helps them with a smooth delivery. All three actors clearly defined the problems and aspects of breaking away from the powerful bricks and mortar that has linked them together for so long.
This is a moving, poetic play on a sensitive topic, superbly presented – with little physical action, some may find it slow, however many will find themselves recalling events in their own lives.