“I went to Boots today and I bought a packet of henna and some razor blades…
I thought, ok, I’m going to go home, drink a bottle of wine,
and then depending how I feel tomorrow morning,
I’ll either slash my wrists or dye my hair.
Either way, I’ll ruin my bathroom carpet.”
Heartbroken Judith drunk-dials her ex-boyfriend and leaves a message on his voice mail, hoping that she will win him back. Come the next afternoon Ros, Jack’s current girlfriend, is persistently knocking on her door, determined to sort things out once and for all. To Judith’s I-wish-the-earth-would-swallow-me – horror and undying embarrassment, Ros is an elegant school teacher and … not fat at all! She on the other hand is in her pjs, red-eyed and tired looking; she has applied henna all over her hair and her new flat is a hole with an assortment of cardboard boxes and an IKEA futon. Not to mention that at the end of the voicemail, she dramatically proclaimed that she might be pregnant! The two rivals spend the rest of the hour in a heated to and fro, each fighting for her right to happiness.
Their dialogue is one of raw emotion, dark humour and awkward, pointed silences. Judith feels cheated of her perfect life and despite her valiant efforts she feels that she might never be able to recover. And to add insult to injury Ros is not a wicked witch that stole her man! Ros on the other hand, has reached that point in her life, where she wants nothing to change; she is happy and fulfilled. Her only problem is that she has to compete with Judith’s “desired shade”; her lingering yet fading presence in Jack’s memories, the idealisation that distance brings. And Jack’s friends just keep ordering for her Judith’s favourite drinks at the pub!
For playwright Amy Rosenthal Henna Night is a youthful play, unlike anything she might choose to write at this point in her career, and it should be judged as such. It is light and it lacks any real drama; it is evident that Judith chose the henna and not the razor blades. Two women bonding over hair product is hardly unheard of, yet she still blends successfully drama with comedy. Her heroines are not female caricatures out of a rom com and Rosenthal is spot on when it comes to the strange brew of supportive intimacy and rivalry that characterises their relationship. It is not overly sentimental and rings true throughout.
Both Hatty Preston, and Nicola Daly deliver their lines with subtlety and conviction. Peter James’ expert direction and the intimate setting of New Diorama Theatre offer the spectator the chance to experience a thoroughly enjoyable performance of real-life antics.