Home. Introduction. News. Career. One Man shows. Books. Reviews. Articles. Contact.

Afore Night Come

Coventry Evening Telegraph, 6th December 1974

This powerful piece by David Rudkin does not enjoy many revivals, so there is special reason for welcoming the decision by the Royal Shakespeare Company to stage the play in their studio theatre.

And, when it is given the sort of skilled attention which it is here, the prospect of a rewarding evening is matched by the event itself.

A group of men gather in the early morning to pick fruit. Some of them are genuine sons of the soil, steeped in rural tradition and bucolic folklore. But there are others – casuals – just there for the money.

People like Larry, a young student, and Jeff, a superficially hard case, who appears to get on well with the men.

As they and a woman named Mrs Trevis take their orders from Spens, the foreman, the atmosphere is easy, relaxed. But, as the action proceeds, a gathering air of menace becomes stronger, as the men turn their aggression towards an old Irish tramp named Roche.

Johnny Carter arrives on the scene with his mate, Tiny. Johnny is on a sort of parole from a mental hospital, to which he has to return each evening. And Johnny is concerned.

He is concerned because he knows what is going to happen. He sees in Larry something of his one-time innocence – now obliterated. He is determined to protect Larry from the involvement in the evil which is to come. And in this, at least, he succeeds.

The build-up is the result of a prejudice rooted in superstition. The consequences are horrible.

Ron Daniels’s admirable production sags just a little at the beginning of the second act but is generally imaginative and detailed harnessing some fine performances to a total effect which is often riveting.

Michael Pennington’s portrait of Johnny is a sensitively conceived and compassionately realised piece of acting which confirms him as one of the more important members of the rising young members of the RSC.

James Booth lends to Spens the matter-of-fact brutality and meanness of a semi-sadist who knows the limitations of his power over the men. It’s another finely judged piece of work from an actor who doesn’t always receive the recognition he deserves.

The general quality of the performances if pretty well sustained with distinguished contributions from people like Cornelius Garrett (Larry), Sheila Kelley (Mrs Trevis) and most notably, Ian McDiarmid whose performance as the ill-fated Roche is both inventive and compelling.

Perhaps the psychopathic tendencies of some of the men are a shade under-emphasised, but the eventual staging of the ‘kill’ is deeply disturbing in its intensity.

Return to Afore Night Come