In a dark room, five actors indulge in what are supposed to be our greatest nightmares – from being chased, to morphing figures in the night. I was hoping this show would have me on the edge of my seat, and Nightmare by Parachronist Productions began with promise, but soon became less about nightmares and more about asking myself what was going on.
I enjoyed the first ten minutes of the show – as the lights went down, the actors used hand-held torches to light the stage, a nice effect to begin with. However, the narrative felt jumbled; although that’s how dreams and nightmares are, the novelty wore off very quickly as I realised that this was the essence of the whole show. Very little made sense and I couldn’t tell when one nightmare finished and another began.
And although the constantly-moving manual lighting was sometimes very effective, I couldn’t tell if there were actual characters or what roles each cast member played, because it was so hard to see either the action or the actors’ faces. Yes, some of the topics I picked up on were creepy or disturbing, but the presentation meant it was more confusing than suspenseful.
If there had been more clarity in what was happening, this could have been a very effective show about the surreal fears in a nightmare. What was delivered however was 45 minutes of darkness and muddled narrative. More structure, for instance distinct moments of change between dreams, might have made it much more effective; when the audience can’t follow what’s going on, making theatre frightening is a tall order.
There were certainly individual elements that worked well, but as a whole Nightmare was composed entirely of flashlights, and awkward narrative which started well but quickly lost its way.