Eventide is a funny, poignant and charming new play exploring the gentle falling apart and rallying of the British village, and the people living within it.
This three hander shows us a snapshot of a village, seen only through a pub beer garden, and how the circumstances of three characters change over a year. We see Liz, a piano teacher who drives two hours to play the church organ, John, who is having to sell his pub, and Mark, grieving for his best friend, who has recently died in a car crash. As the play develops, the intense vulnerability of the characters is revealed. There are some beautifully awkward moments, and an honest look at how real sadness plays out.
It is interesting to see contemporary rural issues (the underfunding of churches, pubs being sold off to big breweries, low employment and zero hours contracts) being addressed in a play, let alone by such a young playwright. Barney Norris evokes the spirit of the golden age of British theatre with this clear eyed, compassionate look at the trials and triumphs of a typical community, giving a voice to the everyday tragedies rarely covered in the news.
The set, sound design and structure of the play were all simple and clean, supporting the lyricism of the writing and the strength of the performances. Although the character of Liz felt slightly underwritten at points, the characterisation was beautiful and perfectly realised - the real heart of the play. James Doherty, playing an outwardly jolly pub landlord hiding a deep melancholy, was a real stand out performance, precisely balancing the pathos and comedy of his character.
This play is a perfect portrait of what it really means to be British - of the joys and sadnesses we make for ourselves, all underplayed and covered up with a joke.
I can't recommend Eventide enough. This is one of the best plays I've seen in years - funny and wistful and true, this is a work of real beauty.