This imaginative retelling of what happened in Cornwall on the night of 19th December 1981 is filled with clever elements to bring the story to life but can feel slightly underpowered in places.
Based on Michael Sagar-Fenton’s book Penlee: The Loss of a Lifeboat, Frazer Flintham’s Into the Night is an extraordinary tale of courage and humanity that is brought vividly to life in Original Theatre’s heartbreaking production.
Taking place across the night of 19th December 1981, Flintham’s play takes audiences on a journey that shows not only the importance of the work of the RNLI – but also the danger that those ordinary people who volunteer to put themselves at risk for other people. This particular story focuses on the tragedy of the Penlee Lifeboat aka Solomon Browne and the crew on board who attempted to help those on the struggling Union Star who got into trouble when a storm hit.
Sadly this production had to stop live performances when two company members tested positive for COVID, but it is great to see that audiences will still get to see this production that uses many clever techniques to make you feel as though you are at sea with all the characters.
Directed with great flair by Alastair Whatley, Into the Night has plenty of attention thrown at it. From the way in which North South uses camera angles and shots are used to enhance the sense of being at sea,the use of music and the way the story is unfolded through both narration and recounting particular moments – there is a real sense of just how tragic this story is for the community as well as for those who got caught up in this tragedy. It is a very impressive visual achievement, particularly when combined with Jason Taylor’s beautifully stormy lighting design and Ryan Gilmartin’s suitably realistic looking projections.
One of the play’s biggest strengths is the way in which the script requires a lot of switching between characters as communication between all those involved with the rescue attempt at a split second’s notice – revealing a detailed insight into how rescue operations on this scale are handled – making for fascinating viewing.
Having the eight strong cast performing multiple roles works really well for this production and keeps the story and energy consistently of high quality. But there are moments in which it feels as though the piece lacks in intensity – particularly when it becomes clear just how much trouble those on board the Union Star.
Despite this, it can not be denied that this is an impressively immersive production that is filled with heart and drama that will keep you watching right until the very understated and poignant ending.
By Emma Clarendon
Into the Night will be available to stream from the 12th January until the 20th February. Click here to find out more.