By Jez Butterworth
Directed by Martin White
With Kate Cole, Dion Mills, David Whitely, Richard Cawthorne, Reuben MacNamara & Phil Roberts
Set Design by Danielle Harrison
Lighting by Alycia Hevey
The Night Heron (August 26 – September 19, 2004) Bill Perrett, The Sunday Age 12/09/2004
Jez Butterworth’s The Night Heron is set in the Cambridgeshire Fens, depicted as a place of superstitious intolerance and barely domesticated strangeness. Butterworth has created a memorably uncanny universe, peopled by strange characters and weird goings-on.
Griffin Montgomery (David Whiteley) and Jess Wattmore (Dion Mills) are trying to eke out an existence on the dole, having been fired from their jobs as gardeners at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, Jess because he has been accused of the sexual abuse of a boy, and Griffin because he has stood by his friend. Into their rather miserable world comes the truly amazing Bolla Fogg (Kate Cole), ex-con, who is looking for a place to stay. She has as little time for the town as Jess and Griffin, her mother having been a cleaner in a college and victim of the careless indifference of the snooty students. There is an ever-present feeling that serious violence is never far away with Bolla, despite the fact that she is making an effort to turn over a new leaf.
Griffin decides the way out of their financial problems is to enter a poetry competition put on by the university. The problem is his poem isn’t very good. Bolla, who knows a little about poetry (she can recite Marvell’s The Garden, thanks to a course she took inside) figures the best way to come up with a winner is to get, by any means necessary, an expert from Cambridge.
Guest actors Phil Roberts and Reuben MacNamara as local weirdos Dougal Duggan and Neddy Beagle join Red Stitch regular Richard Cawthorne as pretend cop Royce, and guest Adam Hunter in the part of the hapless poetry “expert” conscripted by Bolla.
Danielle Harrison’s set and Alycia Hevey’s lighting create a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere, and director Martin White oversees a production that is both funny and disquieting.