Lauren Wilson, Critics’ Circle Editor 2016 – 2017
Directed by Jack McNamara, Darkness Darkness is the second play in the Playhouse’s Sweet Vengeance season, and is therefore a fitting tale of “tragedy and love trying to negotiate a cease-fire,” as brilliantly put by one of our young critics.
Set in Nottingham and adapted from the novel of the same name by John Harvey, Darkness Darkness is centered on two parallel storylines that run on the topics of trust, betrayal, violence and passion, and demonstrate the extent to which the effects of the miners’ strikes of the 1980s are still visible in our society today and how many of those around us continue to suffer for doing what they believe is right.
A cast of eight presented strong yet nuanced characters, who could easily have been your next door neighbour or your grandparents’ best friends. The acting was thoughtful, well-paced and effective at evoking audience emotion.
We were lucky enough to welcome sound director Drew Baumohl into our pre-show discussion to talk to us about his aims for the play and more about his job role and his training. Many of our critics have commented on the effective use of sound for character definition and atmosphere creation, as well as much more…
Another popular observation was how the simplicity of the set supported a complex plot line superbly, and I can only agree that this was a stylish take on a gritty subject.
But I’ve already said too much, and so without further ado, here are the reviews, the poems, the pictures and the letters that are our young critics’ reactions to Darkness Darkness. Enjoy!
A favourite, to watch again!
I went to see Darkness, Darkness at Nottingham Playhouse on Tuesday 4th October, and after a year in Critics’ Circle I can honestly say that it was one of my favourite plays I have watched. The plot was gripping, the scenery was incredibly simple and used immensely effectively, and the actors believable. Darkness, Darkness is set in alternating time periods – the 1984 miners’ strike and 2016- which works well, as the changes of scenery segwayed smoothly between the decades.
For some, the play may have been a timely reminder of the hatred boiled up by the enmity suffered during the strikes, but I just enjoyed a gripping plot carried superbly by clearly very capable actors. I would definitely recommend this play to anyone and everyone and would love, having seen what happened at the end, to watch it again myself!
Maisie Lee Walker
The Miners’ Strike
From 1984 to 1985,
Arthur Scargill and his men did contrive,
An attempt to shut down the coal management,
These brave lads stood on the battlefront.
Violent confrontations between flying pickets and police,
Again and again yet it would not cease,
These fierce and relentless mineworkers stood,
Arguing for victory, what they thought was good.
For a year this strike continued on,
Till many miners had forgotten and gone,
Ruled illegal by Margaret Thatcher and friends,
This tiresome fight did come to an end.
Guilt from loneliness.
Loneliness sleeps and
Away at your soul.
It bites away at the sickness,
The twisted feeling of fear,
That contorts your mind to going back
To those places you were near.
It holds your hands up to the sky,
And rides upon your back.
It makes you do things you regret,
And gives you guilt you lacked.
Darkness, Darkness: A Letter to Catherine, from Adam
I know all too well how you ignore my flowers, texts , presents and general gestures of affection and so I found that the only way to get through to you was if it was related to work and as you can see, I disguised this letter in an envelope, like the one that forensics use to relay information. I did this because I’m desperate. I can force you to read this letter with a clever deception but I cannot force you back into a relationship. You gave no real reason as to your decision; one minute we were a charming young couple preparing for our wedding and the next you threw it all back in my face and we weren’t even friends. Can’t we at least be that? I was happy when I was with you, my worries vanished and were replaced with love. I believe the feelings were mutual.
I realise that if I ask you to meet up you will make some excuse about work to try and avoid seeing me. No, don’t try and deny it; you would and I understand that. You are trying to forget. As luck would have it my job has directed me in your part of the world ( a certain Church Street…number nine….something about an old house being knocked down and needing to dig deep into the foundations… Do you know of it?) I hope you at least give me a chance at friendship. I really do miss you.
Darkness of mystery
On 4th October 2016, I watched Darkness Darkness at the Playhouse, Nottingham.
The play is a fantastic part of history of the 1984 pit strikes, As you watch the play you do feel like you are at that time in life. Very strong and dark scenes and mind blowing actors who deliver the best acting I’ve ever seen, I was gripped to my seat.
The footage about the 1984 pits strikes I’ve never seen before, it was shocking with the violence off the police, right down to the emotional violence. The way the stage was set I’ve never seen before, and the way they move the scenes was amazing. The sound that went with the play was so gripping and very dark in some scenes. All the cast were amazing; the way they portrayed the roles they were in made you feel like you were in them.
As I don’t know anything about the pit strikes, I have learned that there was a very much hate at that time. All I can say is that you must go and see an amazing performance like I did. I’ve never sat still so much at a play, I was so engrossed in the acting and the play. This is the right sort of play for Nottingham Playhouse, one which tells the history of Nottingham.
Music / Sound Effects
Short tunes joined the scenes smoothly together. There were very few sound effects used during the performance, however what was used was very effective, like echoes on the microphones to help show who the actors were as characters.
The set was extremely clever. There was a room that was used very effectively for multiple scenes. Part of the set opened up the space on stage and allowed some scenes to feel claustrophobic, but others to feel warm, comfortable and inviting.
There were two sets of sliding doors: when the doors were closed slowly, the doors closed smoothly and easily; but when the doors were closed quickly to dramatically emphasise the last line said by an actor onstage, the doors don’t shut smoothly and bounce apart from each other, which looks like a mistake has been made. This makes the audience lose concentration on the performance. However, when the doors were shut smoothly it created a sense of suspense to the audience because they want to know what would happen after that statement.
The stage was lit with a gentle and even wash. This makes some scenes look very open, and bright, because there were no shadows on stage. A small room that was used on stage was lit with lots of small lights and this created another even wash making it feel homely and warm because of the slightly yellow colour. During the performance one of the actors had a monologue. This actor was lit with a frosted spotlight from above which cast a shadow of a small silhouette onto the set behind him which made the audience see the actor as being vulnerable.
There was a range of different people who were acting in the performance which helps the audience understand the characters and who they are. The actors used the space and the stage effectively to make their feelings obvious to the audience.
A Gloomy Investigation
Noor Osman Britton
Darkness is a strange thing
When the lights go out
But you are still mining
Mining to make enough money, even for a small trout
But when it’s just darkness, darkness
You must remember to “open your eyes”
Because the killer could be one of the guys
In darkness, darkness
On number 9 church drive
That’s where the story starts to thrive
The house is in darkness, darkness
And so are the mines
Darkness, Darkness – some light on the subject
I’m not entirely sure where to start here. Darkness, Darkness was written by John Harvey, and is the last of a 12 book saga about a detective called Charlie Resnick. This means it uses a lot of troupes more commonly used in novel then in script. Does it translate well? I’m not so sure.
That’s not to say it’s bad. There’s certainly nothing drastically wrong with it. The set is fairly impressive, as it slides around a lot, which gives a good diagram of where the characters are, and the characters and the actors portraying them are dynamic, and feel very much like their own characters. Some of the devices used are nice, such as mental monologues with the dead and private conversations during scenes with more characters in them. So, while there’s nothing wrong with it, the whole thing overall just seems a bit…… shallow.
Some of the characters seem a little bit unrealistic. Two in particular, a guy named Adam and the main female lead, Catherine. They were both far too over-the-top with they’re characters. Catherine was all over the place, jumping to conclusions and going between characteristics sometimes at random. She didn’t seem like a very competent police officer. Adam was supposed to seem controlling, but came over as childlike and kind of pathetic. Which does confuse me, since the main character, Charlie Resnick, seemed to avoid all of these problems very well, seeming like the humbling and experience old detective that he was. Maybe there just wasn’t enough time to develop the other characters enough, or something to that effect.
The whodunit game was fairly weak, too. We’re given two contrasting characters who could be culprits, both for similar but different reasons that both almost make you think it’s them, but then it seems to blame everything on a character who was in about three scenes before the big reveal, and was tipped off to the police by someone who just made no sense.
I don’t know how many of my complaints are aimed at the writing, so I’m not sure if the Playhouse has much to be blamed for. But, like I said earlier, the set was nice, but it wasn’t spectacular, like it was in Sleuth. Or maybe that’s it, having seen sleuth beforehand, which did so much more with a cast 1/5 of the size. Sleuth conveyed
meaning and character through its costume and its set, as well as its dialogue. Darkness, Darkness didn’t really do that.
So, is it good? Eh. Hard to say, really. It’s no Sleuth, but it’s fine. I have no massive problem with it, but I’m not a big fan of it either. So should you watch it? IF you want to get the most of this season, which I know I certainly do, then you should. It’s a bit odd at times, but it’s alright.
Darkness, Darkness – A weave through time
John Harvey’s Darkness, Darkness may be the best of the Sweet Vengeance series at the Nottingham Playhouse. The cast and crew have managed to effortlessly travel between the 1980s and 2016 as an old case that has haunted Charlie Resnick for nearly 30 years is resurfaced.
The setting, subtle lighting and music, along with the incredible performances, will draw you in as your imagination is given a huge spark of life. David Fleeshman portrays the iconic detective so well that you almost forget that it is a play! Simone Saunders also joins the cast as Resnick’s co-detective, Catherine Njoroge. The entirety of the cast gives such a compelling performance that they capture the whole of your attention and make the most of the minimalistic set.
As the case is re-opened in the 2010s, Resnick cannot help but think back to the time of the miners’ strike and how dedicated to the cause our victim, Jenny Hardwick, was. Many characters from the past are brought back into the light as they try to discover what truly happened all those years ago. As the story unfolds, we are shown moments in Jenny’s life that help us to understand how this dreadful tragedy came to be.
The subtle genius in this compelling production is largely due to the creative team supporting the actors and bringing the director’s vision to life. By keeping the set nice and simple, they were able to weave the transitioning through time beautifully and keep the flow of the story smooth. The simple yet effective staging made sure that the attention was where it needed to be.
There is a large hollow cube, which opens to allow the audience to see into different aspects of the plot. For example, it can be an effective and intimidating interrogation room, but can also become a homely apartment. It is also used to show projections highlighting the miners struggle and facial reconstruction of the victim.
Do not miss this incredible crime drama, perhaps, like me, you will be inspired to read the series.
Darkness, Darkness: a letter to the director
Hello Jack McNamara,
I recently came to see your production of Darkness, Darkness at the Nottingham Playhouse with the Critics’ Circle and I would just like to start off saying that this has been my favourite show of the season so far.
The idea of having two time frames in one show is hard to pull off, but the flashbacks where we see the intricate story as the policemen attempt to solve it, create a real masterpiece.
Elizabeth Twells (Jenny Hardwick) portrayed the emotional struggle of whether to stay with the man that she married or to take a risk and go with the man she truly loves with great expression.
Even though the set was simple, I liked how the room, whether it be the police station or Charlie’s kitchen, would just roll forward and roll back when necessary. Also effective was the way that the three shutters would isolate parts of the stage so on one side, acting would take place, but on the other, the next scene would be prepared.
The costumes were accurate to the different time frames, such as Jenny’s simple denim jacket and jeans, but then Catherine’s uniform was a formal blouse and trouser combination. This helped the audience to work out which period we were witnessing.
Thank you for a wonderful evening of tragedy and love trying to negotiate a cease-fire.
A Great Story
Darkness Darkness is a contemporary whodunit murder mystery set partly in modern day, when a young woman’s body is discovered and detectives trawl back in time to discover the truth, and partly in 1984 during the miners’ strikes. It follows the young woman, Jenny Hardwick’s (Elizabeth Twells), life until it’s tragically cut short.
This production was directed by Jack McNamara and was written by John Harvey. I really enjoyed the structure of the piece with the time jumps as it not only let the audience get to know and like Jenny, so her death became more emotive as the play went on, but also because in the detective scenes I felt involved in the investigation; with each suspect interviewed I was questioning as much as the officers who was the culprit.
I especially enjoyed the performances of the two detectives, David Fleeshman as Charlie Resnick and Simone Saunders as Catherine Njoroge. I thought they made the most of dramatising every moment whilst remaining totally believable. I also thought the actual characters of Catherine Njoroge and Jenny Hardwick were independent, strong and brilliant. However, I did find one of Chris Donelly’s characters, the ghost Peter Waites that visits Charlie, a mystery in the play that was never answered and in the end just confusing and unnecessary.
The technical elements in this show were my favourite thing about it, lighting was used to paint beautiful striking images on the stage and give a feel for the different environments. The sound really added to the atmosphere and emphasised intense moments in the script. Lastly, the set was exceedingly clever, especially the feature of a white box missing the fourth wall which was decorated with a variety of props to become different rooms; the scene would begin to play inside it as it slowly moved from the back to the front of the stage, reminiscent of watching an old TV set, it felt like peeking into another world.
Overall, I would recommend Darkness Darkness, it’s beautiful production, although I did feel some parts, especially the ending, dragged on a bit, but told a great story.
Ghosts of the Past
On 4th October I saw Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey at the Nottingham Playhouse.
From the 1984 miners’ strike to modern day crime fiction, Darkness, Darkness strikes a chord with everyone. A body is found… and it is up to Scotland yard to find out who it is and what happened. But things are never as straightforward as they seem, and things take a murderous turn and we are flung back into the past to follow the story of the person murdered.
We are greeted by an ominous black set with stones along the front of the stage showing a hole in the ground. This puts you on edge a lot as normally you don’t see such a dark and mysterious set. When the piece begins, we see how complex and multifunctional the set is, from box rooms being pulled from the back of the stage showing characters everyday lives to the use of shutter doors that allow for set change and to hide certain pieces to reveal later. This greatly enhanced the piece and added the sense of mystery.
The cast was extremely strong and were all equally engaging, particular strong was Elizabeth Twells who plays Jenny Hardwick and gave a stunning performance with subtle changes in her characterisation to show changes in her life.
The piece is very strong for a Nottingham audience as it aims straight at them with the topics of the mines, which is still a strong issue today due to the place in history it holds and how so many people were affected.
The music and sound really enhanced the piece, giving a deeper and darker atmosphere when needed, and a light jazz feel which appeared to be the inspector character’s theme. A typical crime feel of music that would be associated with old TV shows.
The use of a digital video also helped to set the scene as it swapped from a projector style 80s theme showing real images of the miners’ strike, to modern day x-ray style to show more about the victim.
I really enjoyed this piece of theatre and would put it in my top 3. From the real history and crime to the modern dark twist, it is an edgy, gripping and thrilling piece of modern theatre. I would certainly see more by director Jack McNamara to enjoy such thrilling and engaging pieces of theatre with such a technical and modern element.