While the premise behind Darkness In The Night was fairly wacky, the real theme of the play was friendship, aspects of which were intelligently explored in the script, and delicately presented by the cast, whose acting was crisp and mature throughout. To begin with the plot, however - and it might help to read this next bit all in one breath! To protect her friend Lily from the unwanted attentions of Dave, Kate has persuaded Dave that Lily has died in an explosion. Lily, a reformed kleptomaniac, invites Kate to the abandoned house where she has stored her loot in order to dispose of it, while at the same time Dave drags his friend Bob to the same house, which he thinks is an ancestral home, to try to contact Lily's departed spirit. Inevitably the two pairs meet, Dave convinced that he has conjured Lily from the dead, and hilarious ramifications ensue. So far, so farcical, but amongst the witty and fast-paced dialogue across the sexes, there are wonderful moments of tenderness between the manic necromancer Dave and his stolid but ever-loyal sidekick Bob, and also between feisty Lily and her thoroughly down-to-earth companion Kate. It would be easy to lose this aspect of the play amongst the comedy, but skillful direction by Barbara and some very well-honed acting by the four protagonists meant we never failed to take their relationships seriously, even at the most absurd moments.
By taking his part with total seriousness, Sam Collins (Dave) magnificently succeeded in convincing us that he really was crazy enough to think he could summon up the dead by immersing himself in heavy rock music, while Liam Stobart as Bob allowed his loyalty to override his incredulity with a beautifully studied low-key performance. Flora Harvey gave us a strong and determined Lily, and Alice Gaston who as Kate had to find true love and dump it again for the sake of her friend in the space of about five minutes, was heart-rending rather than absurd. The pace of the play called for an ensemble performance of a very high order, and these four young actors rose to the challenge with confidence and terrific success.
Although sounding completely authentic for teenagers, Rob Hockley's script was full of finely crafted witticism, and carefully avoided the kind of slang that dates a play too precisely. This is the second of his plays that the Youth Theatre has taken on, and surely by now they have between them established a very high reputation. As usual the auditorium was much less than full, and I cannot emphasise too much what a treat you missed if you weren't there.