Mystery and history are flawlessly intertwined in Nottingham Playhouse’s excellent production of John Harvey’s book-turned-play Darkness, Darkness. An excellent creative team and skilled actors wonderfully brought to life what will be the final story of Harvey’s Nottinghamshire based detective, Charlie Resnick. This gripping performance uses creative set design and quick scene changes to tell two stories separated by 30 years, that while slightly slow to start, left audience members hanging off their seats in the intense final scenes.

Darkness, Darkness sees beloved detective Charlie Resnick (David Fleeshman) coming out of near retirement to team up with the formidable Catherine Njorage (Simone Saunders) to solve a case that’s 30 years cold. Jenny Hardwick (Elizabeth Twells) was a fiery, passionate and beautiful young woman who disappeared in 1984, right in the middle of the miners’ strike. Only now they’ve found her body, and it’s up to Resnick and Njorage to delve into the past to unearth the killer. Unearthing the past is a clear theme of the play, with Resnick being haunted by mysterious ghosts from his past (a detail which is likely to have meant a lot more to fans of the original book series), whilst Njorage is haunted by her very persistent, very present and potentially dangerous ex-boyfriend.

”The true stars of this production were the team behind the creative and inspired use of sets and scene changes”

Both Fleeshman and Saunders delivered excellent performances, representing both softness and hardness respectively, skillfully portraying a united team intent on finding the solution to their case, whilst also dealing with their own skeletons in the closet. Another wonderful performance was delivered by Twells as the doomed Jenny, who brought the necessary life and vigour to such a free-spirited and strong willed character. However, the true stars of this production were the team behind the creative and inspired use of sets and scene changes. The use of moving sets, elegant lighting and multimedia created seamless transitions between time periods, locations and character interactions, allowing for a performance that was always on the move. First time scriptwriter and author of the original novels John Harvey claimed this was a deliberate choice whilst writing the script. He aimed to avoid being tied down by excessively detailed and over realistic sets, and to create a more ‘fluid relationship with time,’ a goal that was most certainly achieved in this performance.

”The use of sound and music was also a wonderful addition to the play, enhancing the mysterious atmosphere”

One slight issue that resulted from the constant flitting between time periods and lack of consistent set was a brief period of confusion at the very start of the play, when it was slightly unclear which scenes were taking place in which time periods, and how certain characters and scenes related to each other. However, as soon as Jenny’s body is found, this confusion is very quickly cleared up, and things that caused difficulty during the very early part of the play quickly became strengths when it came to delivering the story later on. The use of sound and music was also a wonderful addition to the play, enhancing the mysterious atmosphere and superbly highlighting the stark contrast between the noise and anger of the miners’ strike in comparison to the quiet and cold investigation into Jenny’s murder, 30 years later.

”Nottinghamshire locals are also likely to thoroughly enjoy this play, due to all of the geographical and historical references”

Considering that I, a 20 year old student who has never read the original novels, loved this performance, I can only imagine what people who have had previous experience with the miners’ strike or Harvey’s loveable detective will get out of it. Nottinghamshire locals are also likely to thoroughly enjoy this play, due to all of the geographical and historical references. Regardless of where you’re from or what your age is, Darkness, Darkness is an engaging, mysterious and thoroughly enjoyable performance that will keep you interested from start to finish.

9/10

Emma Pallen

Image courtesy of The Nottingham Playhouse

‘Darkness, Darkness’ is running at The Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 15th  October. For more information and to book tickets, see here

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