The Night Watch at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s theatres seem to have had a theme going lately. Last week at the King’s, J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls was partly set during World War II, while down the road the Lyceum was celebrating Scotland’s first LBGT bookshop in Love Song to Lavender Menace.

This week Hattie Naylor’s adaptation of Sarah Waters’ best-selling novel combines the two in a story of illicit love which takes the audience from 1947 back into war-torn London where passions run high.

I had high hopes from the author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, and the Night Watch has all the ingredients for a poignant love story. But, for me, it is a slow burner. Neither the sets nor the characters are well defined. For most part everything seems to be taking place outside – it is only during our second visit inside the prison (and what are the characters in prison for? Conscientious objection or homosexuality?), for example, that lighting creates a cell-like space, albeit beside a bomb site with a street lamp still intact, and there are no flashing lights when the biggest bomb goes off. While the two leading ‘lesbians’ looked so alike I couldn’t tell one from the other.

The story is almost subtle and surreal in its telling. It begins in slow motion with great significance being placed on moving chairs, and the acting is stilted. At times two scenes are confusingly played simultaneously, with the actors stepping through the other scene’s space.

The story surrounds Duncan, who is, I presume, gay, and lives with a mysterious ‘uncle’; his cell mate Robert, and Duncan’s sister Viv, who works for a dating agency. Then there’s Viv’s friend Helen, and Kay and Julia – a love triangle. They are survivors of the war but as the production progresses we go back in time to see what shaped them.

Things do hot up in the second act and I did love Florence Roberts’ scene as Helen pleading with her girlfriend Kay to stay with her; a comic moment. Lewis MacKinnon deserves credit too for his heart-rending scene when he discovers his friend has committed suicide, while Louise Coulthard is convincing as Viv. 

The Night Watch is at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until Oct 19.
Box Office: 0131 529 6000
It then continues touring:
Oct 21-26: Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
Nov 5-9: Richmond Theatre, Richmond
Nov 11-16: Salisbury Playhouse
Nov 18-23: Ashcroft Playhouse, Fairfield Hall, Croydon
Image: Mark Douet