The set of The Night Heron is thoughtful, and set designer Shali Reddy's use of wood on the walls creates an effective rustic cabin effect. The flow of red throughout shows that it has been created with an eye for the aesthetic. The costumes, from Judy Kahan are also good, as is Christian Silver's lighting. However, the sound effects from sound technician Xiao Lin are a little clumsy.
Unfortunately, things start falling apart slightly as soon as the actual dialogue begins. The script and setting would suggest that there should be accents, but there is nothing but an unsustained twang of varying success and the result is simply confusion. The initial dialogue between Jess and Griffin is wooden and words are stumbled over. As charismatic as Nick Ash’s Griffin is, the actual performance is unconvincing, if not unpleasant. Many supposedly 'comic' lines fall flat, and while the strength of Ash’s facial expressions and his forceful stage presence save others, some scenes come across long and bloated. Jamie Robson makes a good stab at the religious fundamentalist, Jess. Holier-than-thou and forever playing with his dressing gown cord, the character’s psychological discomfort and emotional distress are clear to see throughout. Robson and Ash seem to have a genuine affinity, and good chemistry with one another, but their exchanges lack intensity and energy – as does much of the play.
The saving grace of the production is Carine Valarche’s Bolla Fogg – a veritable Trunchbull, at times a dangerous criminal and, at others, child-like and desperate for acceptance. Valarche’s is the only well-sustained performance, with a placeable and solid accent throughout, the discomfort and strength of the character well-carried as Valarche plods around the stage. She shines in the second half of the play, her stoicism hitting the right notes and her appearance in a sparkly top and black skirt, ‘to go out’ both comic and touching, even soliciting sympathy as other characters make fun of her.
Boy (Duy Le) is good, squeezing as much comedy out of his couple of lines as any man could. Royce (Fergus Powell) starts well, but swiftly becomes tiresome, though this is not necessarily a bad thing, since one has the underlying impression that the character is supposed to be irritating. Other characters on the fringes serve little purpose save for exposition and may have benefited from stronger direction, as might the play as a whole. The first half goes nowhere. The second half is better.
Overall, this week’s Corpus mainshow is not unentertaining, however the entire performance is lacklustre.