Bea Roberts is the writer of the show, who won Theatre503’s playwriting award with And Then Come the Nightjars. And Then Come the Nightjars explores the relationship between a farmer and a vet during the foot and mouth crisis. Being the granddaughter of a farmer, I remember the foot and mouth crisis only too well and I have seen the devastation that that time brought to the country. In our schools, I remember having to thoroughly brush our shoes/wipe them on the disinfectant mat before entering the school buildings and having to wash our hands as often as possible – even those of us who did not live on a farm. Farmers up and down the country cruelly saw their livestock – some that were full of health, whipped away from them, as the government went about its way to prevent the spreading of the disease. Sadly, many farmers felt the hit, and it hit them hard.
The play is set in a somewhat converted barn, with great attention to detail. It couldn’t have been more authentic if it tried. Roberts brings the reality of the situation to life, with amazing accuracy and authenticity as farmer Michael. We felt every emotion that he projected and laughed with him in the times of his down-to-earth and no nonsense approach. Jeff (Nigel Hastings) as the vet bounces off Michael and the both of them strike an uncanny friendship. They get on each other’s nerves, yet they probably wouldn’t know what to do without each other. We witness the length and closeness of their friendship during the course of the play. Michael has never left his farm – with the exception of a day trip to Coventry, which he didn’t enjoy. One can only imagine how intrusive this whole period would have been for him, if you put yourself in his situation. A touching moment is shown when he goes through his box of prizes rosettes that his cows have won throughout their life. Without wanting to spoil the story, we rather loved their turn in the party/disco thrown on the estate. Along with a cheap local DJ and hilarious dad-dancing, this is an excellent scene.
Loss is always difficult to accept and this situation is no different. Given the tender subject matter that the show explores, the play managed to be full of warmth and great comical moments, given the situation that they are both in. Again, Theatre503 has come up trumps, with another fantastic show. The set design and the sound, lighting and direction gives an overall polish to the show adds a realness, that we love. A great and interesting script, with great actors who have the ability to bring out a range of emotions in you, as well as having the ability to keep you totally hooked and captivated by their performance, can only result in a huge success. We thoroughly enjoyed it and wholeheartedly recommend it.
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