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A Dark Night in Dalston, Park Theatre, review: ‘Peels back layers of people from polarised social backgrounds’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 March 2017

Michelle Collins and Joe Coen in A Dark Night In Dalston at Park Theatre. Picture: Helen Murray

Michelle Collins and Joe Coen in A Dark Night In Dalston at Park Theatre. Picture: Helen Murray

© Copyright Helen Murray 2016

Former Eastender Michelle Collins stars as warm-hearted Gina, a nurse in her late forties with an addiction to painkillers who, following her husband’s stroke, now cares for him full-time

Bad things certainly happen to good people in Stewart Permutt’s affecting new dark comedy. A Dark Night in Dalston peels back the layers of two people from polarised social backgrounds, crippled by duty.

At first glance, Simon Daw’s thrust-set stakes out its kitchen sink credentials. Quickly the set’s backdrop – a blown-up photograph of council estate flats – turns into a kaleidoscope of uniform anonymity. It’s this schism – slippery, surface naturalism concealing tragic depths – that unsettles throughout.

Former Eastender Michelle Collins stars as warm-hearted Gina, a nurse in her late forties with an addiction to painkillers who, following her husband’s stroke, now cares for him full-time.

When Gideon (Joe Coen), an observant, mild-mannered young Jewish accountant is the victim of a racist attack, she takes him in.

As it’s Shabbat and a long walk back to Stanmore, Gina offers him dinner. One Kingsmill and Walkers crisp (both kosher) sandwich later and revelations are in full swing.

Details about Gina’s personal difficulties, crisis of faith in Catholicism, plus her passion for learning Spanish and gossip are traded for Gideon’s confessions: he hates his job, resents his engagement to a nice Jewish girl, and can’t get over the death of his mother.

There’s also a heavy dose of sexual chemistry, salsa dancing and a hidden preoccupation with suicide.

At its core, this 95 minute two-hander is a tender mother-son love story. Collins is an energetic force on stage, channeling Abigail’s Party. The reveal is surprising and all the more marked given her performance is so comic.

Coen is utterly believable with his strained gaze fixed on the council flats through the windows, adrift in this alien environment.

While the tone is inconsistent and the writing meanders, this portrait of two needy souls striving to make a connection will linger.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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