Feline fun abounds in Nocturna

26 August 2021

A magical black cat plus four twenty-something housemates make for much entertainment in Ian Sinclair’s new play Nocturna, reports Rita Clarke.

Nocturna, Kabuki Drop ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 25 August ·

Ian Sinclair’s fantasy, Nocturna, is about a formidable black cat called Molly, whose monologues follow her nine lives throughout history as she searches for her significant other. She’s disdainful and arrogant but you have to admire her strength of character and can’t go by the fact that she’s taken a shine to Doris Day and likes to dance to her songs.

Some cat!

In this case and no doubt to distinguish his work from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s feline musical, Sinclair has intertwined Molly’s tale with the rather disconcerting story of four, present-day twenty-somethings trying to coexist as housemates. Molly lives with them. The result is a head-shaking, entertaining, funny play that gives a rather predictable view of the behaviour of twenty-somethings.

Since one of the lads is drawn to Molly with a fetish-like fervour (turns out he’s the one she’s been searching for), the other three conspire against her. It’s a good plot move, as listening to the eternal whinges of twenty-somethings can pall and make you want to ask them – less than politely – to get a life. But they make you laugh.

Predictable twenty something Noah (Daniel Buckle) and Norabelle (Morgan Owen) are entertaining nonethless. Photo: Dana Weeks

The production is splendid, with director Mel Cantwell coaxing good performances from the five and exploiting the small space skilfully. It’s handsomely designed and costumed by Bruce McKinven, whose tactics are akin to a circus ring master. The play opens Macbeth-like, with a shroud-like “tent” and sinister greyness but this is spirited away (you almost expect an arm-outstretched and a “Ta-dah”) to reveal a triangular shaped room framed by neon-lit piping. There’s a double bed, fridge, table, sofa and a central window.

This room, like a circus big top, is swept intermittently by Matthew Marshall’s swathes of vibrant lighting and confetti-like stippling, reminding us of the magic vibes hiding behind the plainly-lit room and the profundity of “who ate my yogurt?”

Molly is the master of these magic ceremonies. There are hardly words to express how superb Alison Van Reeken is as Molly. Dressed in tight black trousers and top she skulks about, rolling her eyes at man’s naivety, snarling and spitting, watching and prowling. She’s a great spinner of stories – notably when describing the beginning of the earth’s formation in space, beautifully lit by Marshall – and of her fear and panic when confronted by her medieval torturers. Her obsessive analysis of her trials and her touching disbelief at finally finding her partner is brilliant and adds pathos to the comedy.

Isaac Diamond plays the object of desire, Sean, as a rather one-dimensional, placid goody-two shoes, which may be to show he’s magically bewitched but does nothing to explain why he’s got Norabelle (Morgan Owen) and Molly fighting over him. Perhaps it was directed or scripted as a foil to Daniel Buckle’s portrayal of Noah, the archetypal, nightmarish, but strangely loveable flat-mate from hell. The one who always wanders around in jocks, scratching parts of himself where you’d rather he didn’t, and not pulling his weight. Buckle was perfect, as was Owen, who nailed the vulnerability behind the confident, head-prefect now boss-of-the-house, act. They’re good at comedy. So too was the come-lately flat mate Suha (Alicia Osyka) – the laid-back deadpan of the trio.

If the ending was obscure (although spectacular), and if it flagged a bit in places, Nocturna can be forgiven for it was such a fun night. More please. 

Nocturna plays Subiaco Arts Centre until 28 August 2021.

Pictured top is Alison Van Reeken as Molly. Photo: Dana Weeks

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Author —
Rita Clarke

Whilst studying arts at UWA Rita found herself working at Radio 6UVSfm presenting the breakfast and Arts shows, and writing and producing various programs for ABC’s Radio National. A wordsmith at heart she also began writing features and reviews on theatre, film and dance for The Australian, The Financial Review, The West Australian, Scooby and other magazines. Tennis keeps her fit, and her family keeps her happy, as does writing now for Seesaw.

Past Articles

  • Rewriting tradition with skill and charm

    It’s a privilege to witness the stunning dexterity of choreographer Raghav Handa and musician Maharshi Raval as they disrupt the traditional roles of Indian dance with grace and charisma, says Rita Clarke.

  • Straight talk reveals resilience behind anguish

    Despite its focus on the inhumanity of incarceration, Jurrungu Ngan-ga has the audience laughing and on its feet with admiration, writes Rita Clarke.

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