Late Night

Blitz Theatre Group and Nikos Flessas
Blitz Theatre Group and LIFT 2016
The Pit, Barbican Centre

Late Night Credit: Vassilis Makris
Late Night Credit: Vassilis Makris
Late Night Credit: Vassilis Makris

Late Night was first staged in 2012 when Greece was already in crisis and its unsettling reflection of a time of upheaval is still equally relevant.

It is set in a dance hall, a room circled by rubble. A space has been swept clear on the carpet but the edges are piled up with chunks of fallen ceiling. On a row of chairs lined up against the back wall three couples are sitting staring into space. In one corner is a television set, turned away from the audience, an electric fan in another, a microphone on a stand.

At last, someone stirs, then response to the music that is playing, a couple gets up and begins, very slowly, to waltz. They are replaced by another pair, then the third dance. Although the steps are precise, the dancers seem to have their minds elsewhere. There is a feeling not so much of boredom as perhaps hopelessness, a fear of facing the world outside this strange sanctuary, a precarious safety as long as there is music and you keep on dancing. Later, the music will get more demanding, the dancing more desperate.

Suddenly someone dashes across to the microphone and speaks into it, later they start to queue up to briefly share a thought, a memory or to report what the others are thinking or doing.

At one point when the dancing has halted, there is a strange competition each person displaying their party pieces: balancing acts, sleight of hand tricks, cartwheels or headstands, none of them properly working, just like the illusory solutions that politicians promise. A women begins singing a song, but as some one else takes over the microphone the voice doesn’t change. Each in turn lip-synchs the lyric, playing literal lip service to the ideas of others.

The text, made up of fractured fragments, mixes romantic nostalgia for private moments with glimpses of a war across Europe, a war that has brought devastation. Animals roam city streets after a bomb hits the zoo; Londoners seek shelter in Underground tunnels, destruction in Potsdam or Paris. People seek salvation by joining the Fascists or the Communists. “We will have AK17s (automatic weapons) and I will write in Alexandrines,” declares one voice. “Socialism is a manual for a life we cannot live,” cries another. “Little by little we become that we despised,” is one gloomy conclusion.

Minds conjure up memories to counter the fears that fill them but, if they keep going, stay here in this limbo, keep dancing they can maintain the delusion of safety, safe from what is now the normality outside but what happens when the lights go out and the music stops?

This may be a Greek company drawing from their national experience but they have made their play resonate for everyone as a disturbing reminder of the disintegration that could be ahead for us if we can’t find solutions to the problems that challenge us.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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