SARAH Waters’ story The Night Watch, set in London during and immediately after the Second World War, is told in reverse, opening in 1947. There the central character Kay warns of the dangers of living in the past.
This literary device for filling in the blank spaces is a challenge for theatrical adapters, but one which Hattie Naylor has taken with her usual inventive style. The Original Theatre Company’s production brings the horror, fear and eagerly-grasped moments of joy vividly to the stage.
Kay is an ambulance driver, selflessly going out every night to search the bombed rubble for survivors. Her work and her personal life cleverly link the various strands of the story.
The twelve characters that Hattie Naylor has brought to life from the pages of the book are played by eight actors, directed by Alastair Whatley. Phoebe Pryce is the brave and anguished Kay, with Florence Roberts as Helen, Izabella Urbanowicz as Julia (and a hugely contrasted Mrs Leonard, Lewis Mackinnon as the frightened Duncan and Louise Coulthard as his sister Viv, Sam Jenkins-Shaw as Robert Fraser and Cole, Malcolm James as Mr Mundy and Mr Wilson and Mara Allen as Mickey and Mrs Alexander.
It may be easier for those who have read the book to follow the story, which seemed to confuse some of the Salisbury audience. The dramatic scene of the air raid, when both Helen and Duncan’s lives were changed, viewed in two places simultaneously, is something that the written word could not capture, and it is marvellously effective. David Woodhead’s set, lit by Nic Farman, enhances the passion, tension, gloom and fear.
The Night Watch continues at Salisbury until Saturday 16th November.