That Night Follows Day reminds me very deeply of a couple of lines by Philip Larkin- “They fu*k you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.” Honing in on the ideas of what it means to try to be a good parent and where the line lies between an imperfect parent and an outright bad one, both the poem and the performance feel like they are making much the same point.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the piece doesn’t have plenty of its own to say. In classic Forced Entertainment style, it walks the line between theatre and something more reminiscent of spoken word, delving into anecdotal truths about the very nature of having parents. However, in comparison to many of their earlier works, this one is very stripped back, leaving only a cluster of chairs on a black stage. Consequently, the cast of children and their words are our only focus. In a way, this feels like a statement in itself: While children are so very often talked over and brushed off, but the audience has no choice but to sit and listen to these children for the entire hour duration.
Personally, I absolutely loved the integration of British Sign Language into the production. The entire thing is conveyed through subtitles as well as spoken and signed English, as well as occasional other languages. Moving fluidly between all the different modes of speech, it inarguably adheres to its own manifesto of saying something for everyone to hear and to choose to listen to. On the one hand, there can be no escape, but on the other nobody is excluded.
There would definitely be grounds to say that this piece could afford to go a little deeper. The cast is largely composed of very small children, which of course limits what can or should be discussed, but there were moments where the script feels like it is toeing around the subject slightly more than was necessary
At its heart, this piece is trying to ask some crucial questions: What should we try to pass on? And who chooses what’s worthy or unworthy of being handed to the next generation? How do we know if we’re getting it right? And what happens when we’re wrong? It explores what it means to choose to trust as a child, and how this trust can be manipulated. There are moments at which all these puzzle pieces fall perfectly into place, and this in turn feels like it reveals something of what this production really wants to do and be.
I enjoyed That Night Follows Day- it is interesting and insightful, but all too often it falls somewhat short of the points it really needs to make.
That Night Follows Day is playing at the Southbank Centre until 15 December. For further information and tickets, please click here.