Review: Midnight Your Time, Donmar Warehouse

A dimly lit kitchen somewhere in the heart of Canonbury is where we meet Judy (Diana Quick) for the first time. The year 2010 has just begun and the mother of two has decided on an attempt to reach out to her daughter in Palestine. But no one is picking up, and so Judy is left with one option: she records a video message for her daughter. And like that, the foundation stone is laid for Adam Brace’s Midnight Your Time. Every Thursday evening, Judy sits down to record a message for her daughter abroad.

With a sensitive feel for the complex connection between a mother and daughter, the play, directed by Michael Longhurst, tells the story of a relationship that is closing a 3,000-mile distance. Even though we only ever get to see one side of the story, Judy’s daughter is as present as can be. Their relationship could not feel more understandable and it does not take a lot to transport my mind into the domestic setting of Judy’s Victorian apartment. 

The retired lawyer in her seventies is a spirited Labour supporter and volunteer to help the ‘refugees of the war’, alongside being the leader of the Women’s International League for Peace, and she has just fallen out with her daughter. The lack of communication that has followed their fight brings a lot of sadness and frustration with it, which can be felt in every fibre of Quick’s delivery; like it or not, it becomes harder and harder not to side with her and wish that she gets her reconciliation with her daughter. But just like every family affair, this is not one-sided. And so, “‘I’m alright as long as I know” becomes harder and harder to agree with, and the question ‘who is in the right here?’ clearly manifests itself. When are parents caring and when are they controlling?

Midnight Your Time sets a wonderful example of what can be achieved with the technology at hand during these uncertain times. It is nowhere near being a half-finished experiment of trial and error in digital theatre. It has mastered technical difficulties and the restrictions in the performing arts with bravura and can easily be used as a parameter for a digital one-woman show. It almost feels as if recorded performance really was the right medium to capture the intimacy portrayed in Midnight Your Time.

The only thing missing from the otherwise immaculate performance is a sense of urgency, a common thread to lead us through the story and remind us and Judy of what is to lose. I can only assume that it was woven into Quick’s portrayal of the mundane life of a mother but could not be fully captured by the camera.

Midnight Your Time is playing on YouTube until 19 May 2020. For more information visit The Donmar’s website.