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  • Chris O'Rourke

Of A Midnight Meeting

Katie McCann and Noise Dunbar in Of A Midnight Meeting. Image Keith Jordan


Given Chrysi Chatzivasileiou's stunningly detailed sitting room, and Toni Bailey’s gorgeously detailed costumes, you might think late Victorian era. A time when the ghost story came into its own. But Katie McCann’s deliciously clever Of A Midnight Meeting is less Victorian and more Bostonian, owning more to James than to Dickens. Not M.R. James so much as Henry James. McCann’s tale a collision of the scientific and the spiritual, the psychological and paranormal. Making it perfect Halloween fare.

The year is 1926. Jack Dempsey has just been defeated and Gertrude Ederle has become the first woman to swim the English Channel. Context established by sporadic broadcasts from an old wireless with a mind of its own, cleverly realised by Danny Forde’s sound design. One of many ingenious production touches that deeply enrich Of A Midnight Meeting. Jeda de Bri’s direction a masterclass in opening up claustrophobic spaces by compositionally arranging energies that crackle with life. A space, like the auditorium, atmospherically lit by Colm Maher. In which Naoise Dunbar’s skeptical Nathaniel Harker, sorry, Doctor Nathaniel Harker, has been given the task of exposing false mediums nominated for a spiritualist award. A flimsy pretext, but you forgive it when McCann as Hester O’Brien begins making her case for a seance by claiming the dead still wish to speak with the living. Like in The Conjuring, it's all about exposing spiritual frauds with Harker convinced Hester is just a conwoman. Yet as they go to war old ghosts soon rise from their graves. But are they psychological ghosts, or is there more between heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy?

Katie McCann and Noise Dunbar in Of A Midnight Meeting. Image Keith Jordan

While her excellent verbal swordplay doles out quicksilver parries and thrusts that are a joy to watch, McCann’s handling of themes and tension proves somewhat less successful. Death and grief rendered little more than devices to establish the possibility of another world. Tension slacking as back stories are clunky recounted, the ambiguous ending pulling its eerie killer punch for being rushed and unclear. Yet McCann's evocation of black and white, horror movie magic proves divine. Echoed in Chatzivasileiou and Bailey steeping McCann's tale in the colours of Hammer Horror. Dunbar’s intentionally wooden Harker, a type more than a trope, proves delightful as the self superior, cynical male. McCann channelling her inner, high strung diva, evoking commanding presences like Judith Anderson in Rebecca, or Gale Sondergaard in almost anything. Assured yet jittery, an ocean of calm yet a lexicon of physical pleadings, McCann proves the perfect foil for the controlled Dunbar. Yet who’s really in control remains to be seen.

If Of A Midnight Meeting borders on parody at times, McCann’s sharply paced script leaves you little time to notice as it whisks you delightfully along. Under de Bri’s assured direction, Of A Midnight Meeting envisions Halloween not just as a time of horror, but as a time of costume, as fun, as a little bit over the top. With a gentle scare or two thrown in for good measure. Making Of A Midnight Meeting wickedly good fun for the time of year.

Of A Midnight Meeting by Katie McCann, runs at Bewley’s Café Theatre until November 11.

For more information visit Bewley’s Café Theatre


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