That Night Follows Day
Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork ****
Sitting through That Night Follows Day by Tim Etchells is rather like being charged with a catalogue of clichés and being found guilty by an expanded jury.
This Bare Cheek Theatre Company production is billed as a play for adults performed by children, and indeed 16 youngsters recite, as if in an animated Greek chorus, the admonitions, prohibitions and occasional affections that flow into their ears from early childhood.
Directed by Tony McClean-Fay, the 16 teens and pre-teens modulate their tones from mild to manic in an accurate mimicry of parental or adult instructions. At first the line-up seems casual until the representative quality of the piece grows into something compelling, as if itself resembling the evolution of infant to adolescent.
The costuming and the orchestrated grouping and postures of the cast are both structured and recognisable, and these young people are confident performers, their vocal range and variety mastering the demanding internalised rhythms. This is a laudable achievement of diction and memorisation.
The fact that the grouping is entirely white and firmly in the middle of the social pile does not detract from the effectiveness of the piece (and piece it is – the play is little over an unbroken hour long) but seems a contradiction of its representative identity as the children gather to enumerate the bleak tools that prepare them for the future.
There are the reminders of prejudices and bigotry scattered like blessings, and the warnings that water and electricity are incompatible; there are stories in fiction, from Grimm to Dahl, and the torrents of “No!” endured like abuse. Yet among all of these are numbered the light left on in the hall or the door left open just a crack, consolations littered along the accusatory chorus-line.
Told that everything will be okay, to smile and the world smiles with you, their smiles fade as if nothing, except their perfect teeth, will survive the transition to adulthood.