Family funerals are often dramatic. People are crammed together in close proximity, emotions are high… a prodigal usually returns. Natasha Gordon’s funny and affecting new play Nine Night goes way beyond these norms, though.
Centring on the traditional Jamaican extended wake (the Nine Night of the title), it’s never less than a fascinating watch. Deceased matriarch Gloria’s family host nine nights of mourning in her London home. The characters are universal (put-upon daughter, rebellious granddaughter, outspoken old aunt and angry brother) but there’s nothing clichéd in this fresh and original drama.
The cast is strong, largely playing their roles to perfection, but Cecilia Noble as crotchety old Aunt Maggie really stands out as queen of the arch one-liner.
Gordon skilfully mixes humour with pathos and her use of a familiar form to playfully examine issues of assimilation, belonging and the value of tradition and ritual is artful. Unbelievably, this is the first West End play ever to have been written by a black woman.
Nine Night, Trafalgar Studios 2, 14 Whitehall, SW1A 2DY. Tickets £18-£75, until 23 February 2019.
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