By Alex Ottie
From the domestic setting of a bedroom shared by two young partners, ‘Mr. Sparks and his Nighttime Larks’, questions the nature of true love, whilst delving into theological questions.
The intimacy of the play was immediately apparent, and most members of the audience were no more than a foot away from the actors. The set was minimalistic, and an immediate sense of involvement was created by the girl, arrestingly played by Eleanor George, kneeling on the floor meticulously and frantically applying her makeup. The directors, Anna Jeary and Joe Kelen, deserve recognition for an innovative staging of the play.
The play is a snapshot of the relationship between a couple, followed by a bewildering monologue by the Demi-God, Mr. Sparks. The first half of the play drew the audience into a ‘Waiting for Godot’ type of experience, due to the inconsequential and random nature of the couple’s dialogue and the sense of anticipation shared by both actors and the audience to see the mysterious, Mr. Sparks. Our expectations were satisfied in the second half by the initial comical appearance of the character from underneath the bed. The tone, however, soon turned serious, and reflects the change in lighting, as the creature painfully and relentlessly debates whether to take out the hearts of the couple asleep on the bed.
The characters were played well by all three actors. The sense of immature endearment between the lovers, played by Adam Murphy and Eleanor George, was conveyed with raw eagerness and excitement. It was Theo Harrison, however, who gave the stand-out performance of the mentally conflicted Mr. Sparks. It is indicative to the talent of both actor and writer that it was possible for the 30-minute monologue that comprised the second part of the play to have captured the audience’s interest throughout. Harrison was always engaging to watch and impressively reeled off the huge speech without any slips. The intelligent direction of Anna Jeary and Joe Kelen provided enough movement to prevent the monologue from ever becoming repetitive or dull. The script became far more engaging in this part of the play; credit must be given to the writer, Hugh Train, for powerfully and at times, movingly exploring the nature of love in Mr. Sparks’ lengthy soliloquy, with an ending ambiguous enough to leave the audience discussing and debating potential meanings and interpretations long after the play had finished.
Photograph: Samuel Kirkman