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  • Writer's pictureFrances

The Night Watch Review | The Royal Exchange | Manchester

“I thought everything would change, after the war. And now, no one even mentions it. It is as if we all got together in private and said whatever you do don’t mention that, like it never happened.”

The Night Watch is an understated and beautifully performed story that portrays five characters during 1947 to 1941. This WW2 same sex love affair is written by Sarah Waters and adapted for the stage by Hattie Naylor.

By revealing its narrative in reverse the story slowly exposes its interlinking characters and their transformations surrounding and during the war.

Built on loss, sacrifice and regret, the only nostalgia for the period is in the job opportunities the war established for women. Kay, played by Jodie McNee first appears to be the self-assured heroine of the piece. An emergency operator during the war, she appears dressed in a mannish suit, a cropped hair cut, with a cigarette behind her ear.

When Kay speaks you realise that years have passed since the war but she remains exhausted by the horrors she has witnessed. She spends most of her days at the cinema, suddenly visibly restless and dazed. The characters are connected by the part they played in the war and by the suppression of their sexuality.

The Royal Exchange is transformed by Rebecca Gatward’s and Georgia Lowe’s direction and design. The rewinding timeline is paired with a revolving circular stage and minimalist props that let the audience focus on the intense restoring of each characters layered connection.

The spirit of simple pleasures in their tragic, war-torn lives is carried by the perfectly absorbing cast. Set on the dizzying waltzer which is life and subtly portray at the Exchange.

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