Rebekah Murrell as Anita and Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Robert in Nine Night at the National Theatre (c) Helen Murray
As playwright debuts go, Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night has to be up there as one of Britain’s finest
Alongside director Roy Alexander Weise, a stellar cast including Cecilia Noble and a killer set design, Nine Night is a theatre gem that I sincerely hope the National Theatre are already in talks to bring back.
Nine Night is bound together with classic Caribbean reggae and soca anthems, which for me are the soundtrack to every family celebration I’ve ever been to
Instantly, the set design by Rajha Shakiry sets the bar, that what lies ahead is a production that has taken authenticity seriously. I may as well have been sitting in the kitchen of one of my elder family members; such was the microscopic attention to detail. From the wallpaper to the plastic flowers, the rubber plant and the eclectic mix of fridge magnets, I knew that my beloved Caribbean heritage was being showcased from a place of love.
Nine Night is a Caribbean tradition involving nine nights of mourning and celebrating the life of our dearly departed for nine consecutive nights usually at the family home. At this extended wake, there is rum, food, dancing, prayers, singing hymns, storytelling, music and did I say rum? Yes, there’s plenty of that. It is the coming together of friends and family and a chance to pay tribute to the deceased - paying respects and offering support but as you can imagine, the intensity of the experience, can lead to a situation fraught with tensions and emotions quietly bubbling away under the surface.
In this production, the ‘Nine Night’ is for Gloria who was cared for by her doting daughter, Lorraine (Franc Ashman). Gloria is neither seen nor heard. Single parent Lorraine has one daughter Anita (Rebekah Murrell) and a brother, Robert (Oliver Alvin-Wilson). The play centres on the the rawness of grief with humour, and adept sensitivity that transcend racial and cultural differences. The cast includes Aunt Maggie (Cecilia Noble) and husband Uncle Vince (Ricky Fearon) and Robert’s partner Sophie and the black sheep of the family, Trudy (Michelle Greenidge).
Much to the annoyance of Gloria, Auntie Maggie and Uncle Vince’s purpose is to constantly remind them, the younger generation, about the traditions surrounding Nine Night and exactly how things should be done – there is no straying away.
Cecilia Noble as Aunt Maggie and Ricky Fearon as Uncle Vince in Nine Night at the National Theatre (c) Helen Murray
Nine Night is a theatre gem that I sincerely hope the National Theatre are already in talks to bring back.
Then there’s Trudy, the child that had an almost mythical status to her UK siblings, she was raised by her grandmother and had an estranged relationship with her mother, Gloria. Her very existence or the mere mention of her name causes her siblings to break out in a jealous sweat. As this story line develops, it leads us to a catastrophic conclusion filled with 6ft of buried emotions.
Nine Night is bound together with classic Caribbean reggae and soca anthems, which for me are the soundtrack to every family celebration I’ve ever been to. If they haven’t already, I think the National Theatre should do a Nine Night playlist for us all to enjoy long after the show closes. Well done to sound designer George Dennis on the perfect selection of tracks - thank you for the trip down memory lane.
This production is timely as the 22 June 2018 marks 70 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex. Coupled with the controversies surrounding far too many Caribbean’s being denied British citizenship due to not having supporting papers – this is a good time to shine the spotlight on Caribbean culture. It comes as no surprise that Nine Night is sold out now BUT I highly recommend you try to book a Friday Rush ticket when the NT releases a batch of £20 tickets at 1pm. Set a reminder on all your devices and tell your people do the same, too. You can thank me later.
Oh, and my other tip is to take some tissues (for tears of laughter and woes), as this is one emotional roller-coaster that I was not ready for.