Review: Tomorrow at Noon
Cast of Glimpse from Tomorrow at Noon - photo by Robert Workman
Elaine Claxton - Vic (The Thing Itself) & Mags (Glimpse)
Laura Morgan - Hannah (The Thing Itself), Allie (Smite) & Woman (Glimpse)
Laila Pyne - Simone (The Thing Itself), Trisha (Smite) & Clarke (Glimpse)
Three new one-act plays reacting to Noël Coward's Tonight at 8.30.
By Jenny Ayres, Emma Harding, and Morna Young.
"She's been coming here every Sunday for the past fifty years and he still hasn't turned up."
The playwrights of these three funny, moving and provocative plays were chosen from 390 entrants to write a contemporary female response to Noel Coward's Tonight at 8.30.
Jenny Ayres' Glimpse is inspired by Coward's Still Life.
It is the story of a woman whose history holds too much for her to leave behind.
In a world that never stops, are we brave enough to wait? What might we glimpse if we miss the train?
Emma Harding's The Thing Itself reacts to Coward's Shadow Play.
When the sun fails to come up one morning, Vic and Simone must face the dark.
But what emerges from the shadows?
Truth or illusion?
Morna Young's Smite is inspired by Coward's The Astonished Heart.
It is a story of buried answers, blind hearts, and life after loss.
Part of The Reaction Season.
Tomorrow at Noon is a trilogy of new one act plays commissioned to react, reply and respond to the nine plays in the series Tonight at 8.30 (you can read our review of that here).
In a highly ambitious season, Jermyn Street Theatre not only decided to revive Noël Coward's nine plays from Tonight at 8.30 as three trilogies, but went further by commissioning this trilogy of one act plays to sit alongside the revival.
The decision seems to be based on the idea of theatre as conversation, so these new plays have each been written in response to one of the plays in the Tonight at 8.30 series (the synopsis has the details).
First thing to notice (in case it didn't immediately leap out at you) is that this enterprise has an all-female cast as well as female playwrights and director.
That in itself seems an appropriate response to Coward's work and to the fact that we still need a much wider range of female roles.
But wouldn't it have been even more splendid to have 9 new plays all written by women to sit alongside the originals?
That might have been just a bridge too far even for this ambitious project, though it could well be an idea for the future.
Like it's better known 'big brother', Tomorrow at Noon features an ensemble cast - just three actors in this case - who tackle all the roles with ample skill and easily handle the considerable gear-changes.
And we discover a rich variety of characters.
In Morna Young's Smite, we find one woman who might easily have found her way into one of Coward's short plays.
Trisha is a former publicist, now a potter, who lives in considerable comfort in Scotland thanks to her husband's inherited wealth.
But when he dies, she discovers his visits to London have involved a strange liaison with a younger woman who, in effect, has found an unusual way of paying her rent.
Emma Harding's The Thing Itself is the most difficult of the plays to explain or understand.
Vic and Simone are on the brink of divorce in the first scene but in the final one, which repeats a good deal of the first, it's their initial encounter which we see played-out, and this leaves us wondering whether we're watching reality, fantasy or a dream.
Finally, in Jenny Ayres' Glimpse, we find the railway setting of Coward's Still Life (which later became brief Encounter) updated to the Winter of 1994 where private companies have started the process of taking over our railways.
Elaine Claxton's humorous Mags spends all her time at a railway station waiting for her brother, who never actually arrives.
Though she seems to have money for an assortment of food and other necessities, there's the hint that she may be homeless.
However, she seems less interested in her accommodation status than in the past and understanding what happened to her sibling and whether he will return.
Having sat through all nine plays of the Tonight at 8.30 revival in a single day, there's an inevitable feeling that Tomorrow at Noon is unavoidably overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of its counterpart.
Though it can't compete in terms of scale (and, to be fair, doesn't really try to) it encapsulates thoughtful intimacy, and the plays illustrate important concerns in the present-day and enduring issues that, like the shock of discovering infidelity or all-consuming memories, are pretty timeless.
Uniformly strong performances from an able cast provide well-differentiated characters across a fairly broad spectrum.
And there's wit and humour in the portrayals to enjoy, even if there are times when the deliberate brevity of the dramatic vehicles leave one needing more in terms of exploratory details and character development.
Such, though, is the nature of the one act play - we're often left hungry for more on many fronts.
Tomorrow at Noon shouldn't be seen as somehow mimicking Coward's work - that's neither the point nor the purpose.
The voices we hear are distinctly from the present not the past, and collectively they provide an abundance of worthy and interesting issues to mull-over, and prove that the one act format is still powerfully enriching.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Jermyn Street Theatre
Our show listing for Tomorrow at Noon
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