“Something sincere that takes the audience somewhere” seems to be an obvious and foolproof way of approaching your work as a playwright. It also seems rather simple. I could not find, however, a more fitting description of Bea Roberts’s work than the one she uses in this statement about her writing.
You arrive at the gorgeous little pub just underneath Theatre503 and you have yourself a glass of wine, maybe two. You hear the call and head up to the theatre, where you take a seat and curiously contemplate the insides of a cow barn in Devonshire. Even if there’s the possibility you’re about to see another dull farm boy drama, you have to admire the careful dedication with which the barn has been laid out and brought to life in the light. It is only when this solemn portrait of Max Dorey’s design comes alive with the earthy presence of Michael (David Felder) and Jeff (Nigel Hastings) that you understand the honesty in Roberts’ intentions. It is a beautifully delivered tale of friendship and tradition, with the essence of rural England down to its rowdy humour and fading greatness.
Michael is a grubby old dairy farmer whose wife has recently passed away and whose time is now solely dedicated to the care of his prize collection of cows. Jeff is a well-mannered veterinarian in his forties with a fondness for lighthearted banter and drink that will probably see to his divorce. This unusual friendship takes place through their shared respect for countryside life and animals; both men find an unspoken comfort in each other’s company that can only be found between two solitary men. This relationship is then tested by the spread of the Foot and Mouth pandemic that led to the mass slaughter of millions of animals in the UK, including Michael’s beloved “girls” and at the unwilling hand of Jeff himself, who has to fulfill his duties as a livestock veterinarian.
Once these lively characters have captured your undivided attention, it will be easy to connect the dots and witness in their stories the stubborn pride and endurance of the agrarian spirit. If it isn’t the exquisite attention to detail evident in the set and costumes, or Sally Ferguson’s striking lighting design, then it’s Paul Robinson’s exceptional control of dramatic tempo and the enthralling character development so strongly performed by Felder and Hastings that makes of this piece a warm and engaging performance. 4/5
Review written by Bryan Novelo.
And Then Come the Nightjars is currently showing at Theatre503 until Saturday 26th September. For more information on the production, visit here…