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Nine Night Nine Night
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Nine Night

In Jamaican tradition the Nine Night was the most elaborate of the ‘set-up’ that takes place on ninth night after the person has passed away. It was an elaborate affair, with music and food dance as the masses that gathered offered emotional support to the bereaved family, paid their respects to the deceased and bid them a respectful farewell.

 

This complex ritual is explored and brought to life vividly in Natasha’s Gordon new play. The production opens in a typically overstuffed West Indian sitting room of the late 70s to early 80s. Gloria is on her death bed and her family and close relatives are gathered around waiting for the inevitable. When it finally happens, a week and more of celebrations, family tensions, intrigue and jealousy is unleashed.

 

Lorraine, admirably played by Franc Ashman, is at breaking point both physically and mentally from looking after her mother by herself for three months and the last thing she wants is a week of so celebrations and festivities.

 

She is also resentful that her brother Robert, played with seething anger by Oliver Alvin-Wilson has done little to ease her burden. He himself is under pressure sell Gloria’s house immediately to compensate a bad deal that his business partner undertook.

 

Into the mix enters the formidable no nonsense Auntie Maggie (Cecilia Noble), the undoubted star of the show, all huffing and sneering and intent on running the ritual the traditional Jamaican way no matter what. Her juggernaut of a presence crushing and pushing all modernity aside.

 

Thus ensues two hours of enthralling comedic and sometime uncomfortable roller coaster ride in which we see family issues ripped open to the raw, jealousies, unfulfilled expectations, divisions, abandonment deeply buried pain, laughter, music, dance and joy all handled under the skilful direction of Roy Alexander Weise.

 

With a fine supporting cast which included Ricky Fearon, as Uncle Vince, the quiet but very wise sage and Michelle Greenidge as Lorraine’s daughter, desperately trying to cling on to her Jamaican roots, it’s a production that comes highly recommended.

 

The acting is first class, the scenery realistic and with interspersing of popular soca tunes during the scene changes helped to lend a totally authentic Caribbean feel to the evening.

 

Catch it if you can, even though completely sold out. London needs more plays like this. Judging by the standing ovation given at the end from the rapturous mixed audience, many would certainly agree.

 

Nine Night, April 21-May 26, National Theatre, SE1 9PX, £15-£40, https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/nine-night for details.

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