Written and directed by Claudio Macor
Judith Paris and Susannah Allman
In The Dead Of Night sets out an ambitious premise. Very much a nod to the film noir of the 1940s, Claudio Macor's play draws upon the classic romantic motifs with a tale set in the fictional South American town of La Roca. Amidst an intrigue of whores, drug cartels, sleazy dockside rendezvous and ultimately murder, passions run high and hearts are broken.
But back in the day Hollywood was enslaved to the Hays Code – a puritanical ethic that governed all aspects of intimacy and sexuality in the movie industry. Macor has already explored this era with The Tailor Made Man. In The Dead Of Night takes artistic licence one step further, by pitching the plot as though the Hays Code did not exist. Gay love is celebrated rather than hidden, whilst the straight sex simmers too. The noir genre cruelly demands respect and scripting the period can prove to be a notorious challenge if melodrama is to be avoided. Whilst Macor's research into the cocaine-fuelled period is learned and sincere, he overdoses on cliché.
Acclaimed actor Judith Paris leads the company as La Roca's ageing madam, Elvira. Paris is a delight, making a larger than life character accessible, whilst at the same time casting a GILF-like spell over most of the men in town. Shamelessly exploitative, Macor has chosen his performers with an eye for beauty as much as for talent. Countless ripped young men strut about in vests and butt-slung braces, who if they are not lusting after Elvira, are falling at the feet of Susannah Allman's Rita, or in the story’s strongest love theme, each other. Defying the conventions of the time, the story leads on the doomed love between Leandro and Massimo, respectively Matt Mella and Jordan Alexander, in a courtship that includes some fabulously choreographed man to man tango.
And it's Anthony Whiteman’s choreography that marks this show out. Delivering quite possibly the best off-West End dance work in London today, his sublime tangos and salsas are breath-taking for what they accomplish, especially given the Landor’s modest space. Immaculately drilled, his company oozes passion whilst the perfectly sculpted and scantily clad Allman, gives a performance that is not only a smouldering tribute to Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner, but also a sensational dance accomplishment as she moves around her would be suitors.
Notable too on the night are Ned Wolfgang Kelly’s devious Falchi, whilst Ross Harper Millar’s Martinez is memorably classy as a drink and drugs addled Latin bum.
Overblown hokum for sure, but with Paul Boyd (he of Molly Wobbly fame) having laid down a keyboard driven backing score that adds to both time and genre and all supporting a deliciously talented troupe, In The Dead Of Night makes for an entertaining night out. Worth catching!
Runs to 16th May 2015