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Review: A Dark Night in Dalston, at Park Theatre

Michelle Collins and Joe Coen in enjoyable production that puts darkest Dalston in the spotlight

17 March, 2017 — By Catherine Usher

Michelle Collins in A Dark Night in Dalston. PHOTO: HELEN MURRAY

THIS two-hander starring Michelle Collins and Joe Coen develops around a rather improbable scenario. Young Gideon (Coen) is sitting on a pavement in Dalston with a nasty cut above his eye when Collins’ Gina discovers him and insists that he comes to her flat so she can clean him up.

Fair enough – perhaps, but there are plenty of occasions over the next hour and 45 minutes when most normal people probably would have disengaged. Of course, Gideon and Gina are definitely not dull and it would be difficult to categorise either of them as normal, but the occurrences that lead them to enjoy each other’s company for such a prolonged period are questionable to say the least.

Luckily this issue is frequently overshadowed by the shifting dynamic between the pair and their entertaining and often amusing conversations. As a straight-talking yet sensitive middle-aged woman, it’s easy to see why Gina is so fascinating to disillusioned office worker Gideon. Anyone with EastEnders experience knows how to pull off a kind of downtrodden yet sexy vibe and dressed in her skinny jeans and guzzling her white wine, Gina is strangely dazzling.

The humour does sometimes slip into a kind of Downton Abbey-style, let’s laugh at the uneducated imbecile, but mostly Collins elevates Gina beyond such snide comedy. She expertly portrays Gina’s warmth, passion and deep vulnerability, rising above any festering caricatures.

Coen has a slightly more restricted role to work with, but he captures the character’s conflicting emotions nicely – noble and compassionate one moment, shallow and self-centred the next. It certainly feels as if the play was written so author Stewart Permutt could explore the characters and the dialogue – the storyline itself seems insignificant in comparison. Yet, if you are prepared to suspend disbelief and enjoy observing how the conversation flows, there is much to enjoy when darkest Dalston is thrown into the spotlight.

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