Black Night

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 December, 1999, 12:00am

Black Night Sha Tin Theatre Company La Cremeria Theatre Fringe Club December 1 Darkness reigns. This was an evening in which closures, witty jokes and happy endings were all left out of the discourse; three hours of the human psyche's darker side, as man's wayward nature is exposed. A very black night.

'So that's what hell is: I'd never have believed it - do you remember, brimstone, the stake, the gridiron? What a joke! No need of a gridiron - Hell is other people.' This line summed up the first half of the double-bill, a rendition of No Exit, Jean Paul Sartre's garish, existential tale about afterlife.

Three sinful souls: an egoistic wannabe-hero shot for evading military service, a cold-hearted lesbian who killed to land her lover, and a decadent socialite who smothered her own baby daughter to stay attractive. Now they face torture from each other's existence as well as their earthly misdemeanours.

A story of high intensity, it offers explosive moments and the cast delivers. The emotional blackmail the trio unleash on each other is well-executed, and they whip up an evil, claustrophobic atmosphere that would leave the most cynical audience uncomfortable. Through their powerful performance we realise there are no good souls in the room.

The same could be said of the night's second instalment: a reading of The House of Bernanda Alba, probably the most infernal piece in Federico Garcia Lorca's canon. A story about a dominant matriarch and her quintet of mercenary daughters who all harbour designs on the most handsome man in the village, The House relentlessly documents the way the family disintegrates due to suspicion, ill-will and treachery, and ends with death, madness and sang-froid calls for silence from the family head.

It were the most sinister performances for an all-female cast local theatre has delivered from the cruel Bernanda, the deadpan Maria or the egotistic Adela. The wickedness was spellbinding.

The performances are effective enough to condemn goodwill as irrelevant.

What the plays brought home was that if the apocalypse were to come, as the powerful performances in Black Night profess, it would not be from heavenly acts like floods or earthquakes. Our denegeration would be of our own doing.

A bitter, but welcome aftertaste lingered as the audience dispersed.