Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Midnight Movie

By Eve Leigh
Royal Court, London 

A drum kit occupies one corner of a cluttered stage. There’s also a double bed in hideous salmon satin and a classical torso painted midnight blue. We are, in other words, in some surreal studio flat of the mind, and the play that unwinds is, among other things, a tense self-interrogation conducted in the small hours. God, this could all have been annoying. But thanks to the bravura writing of Eve Leigh, Midnight Movie is funny, engaging and, on its own terms, wholly successful. Credit, too, to Cécile Trémolières’s De Chirico-esque design, and to the two performers. Nadia Nadarajah, a deaf actor, signs or mimes the words of Tom Penn, the playwright’s bear of a husband, as bulky and closed off as Nadarajah is small and expressive. As they swap stories, he also takes the lead from her, giving verbal expression to her gestures. Sometimes they’re insomniacs; sometimes they’re the writer’s competing id and ego. Without a plot or characters as such, an experiment in form that is also a study of the facet of our lives that is now lived online can’t easily be moving. But it can do just about everything else, and it does. Leigh’s mercurial two-hander, directed by Rachel Bagshaw, is like being trapped inside an iMac G3.