Review by: Tom Mackan
When Allison Warwick takes up dancing, stand back world for another triple threat performer. In Sam Chang’s deeply moving “Nocturne”, Warwick brings clarity and sense to acting in her role as Rebecca. The spoken word seldom is so well served as it is by her clear and sensibly shaped delivery, nor is music played so expressively within the telling of a tale. Actor and pianist, she uses both to mine the depth of her hopeful and doomed love for a handsome soldier, and finds gold. It’s a privilege to have shared that hour and quarter with her at the Citadel upstairs theatre during this Fringe Festival. But one more credit to add: She shared, as well, in the writing of the piece.
The musical form of the nocturne is the central conceit of the play. Perfected during the Romantic Movement of the 19th century, it is a pervasive thing, marked by the loveliness inherent in the peace of night time, of inevitable endings after the troubling glare of daytime’s conflicts. And that’s how the youthful Chang and his creative partners tell this story. World War Two seems an unlikely setting for writers almost three generations away from that epic event, but they are up to the challenge. Out of the explosive cacophony of that chaos they find a Rebecca and a Nathan and a Charlie, and wait for it … a Hope. Hope weaves the fabric together in the fine creation of a dance… nay, a dancer. This inspired device is given to Cassandra Bowerman to bring to life and she takes to the stage in a red river of costuming that she causes to float around and over the story, a flood of the blood that will both drown the love of a generation of youth and yet carry with it the hopeful seed of nocturnal peace. Samuel Chang is fortune’s child in his casting of Bowerman in this role. So beautiful a performance! And fortune is not finished with this production.
Two more golden players complete the story: A.J. Haygarth as Nathan and Michael Pearson as Charlie. Haygarth’s Nathan is the provocation, the protagonist, that drives the conflict that is the promise of love for the hapless and helpless Rebecca. With economy and craft, Haygarth so effectively underplays to his co-stars in a calculated investment in his sense of ensemble that its return for us is just grand. We become so invested ourselves in the love between them that we hold our breath, and as Rebecca says “ I learn to breathe under water, and won’t I drown if I come up for air?” A.J. Haygarth gives us this kind of theatrical experience, indeed.
As a connect to the life beyond Nathan and Rebecca, as a final conduit from the bruitish noise of battle to the sad peace of reality, and another jewel of fortune to the team, the role of Charlie is played with heartbreaking charm and skillful certainty by Michael Pearson. Often some of the best moments in a play are achieved with supporting performances, and in Pearson’s Charlie we are richly rewarded.Simply said, high kudos to these four performers and may their promise in our theatre world be realized soon and often.
Bravissimo, bravissima to the creators. Chang, writer/director, Derek Hung, co-writer, Zoe Blenkinsop, SM and Lighting designer (and allow me add, a brilliant actor herself in another life), her ASM Eric Kim, and magnificently, Set and Costume design by Hanna Chang. So wonderful to find a Dramaturge involved, in Andrew Kim… but let my undercover role as a critic encourage Kim and all the team to keep alert. This play still needs some workshopping. It’s long for its basically simple story, yet short for the more complex study it might want to achieve. Just saying.
Get up and off to the Citadel upstairs theatre this week and join the long lines already forming to see this production. Tell them I sent you.