Midnight Your Time
Donmar online

Reviewer's rating

Whatever your love-hate relationship with Zoom looks like at this point of the pandemic, perhaps some part of you is nursing, like I am, a certain degree of gratefulness for itת in this moment. When I schedule a call with my friends, I know they’ll answer. When I call my family, I know they’ll answer, or else get back to me later if they don’t. The same cannot be said for Judy, the sole character in Adam Brace’s 30-minute production of Midnight Your Time. The play is structured as a series of video messages, each of which Judy leaves her daughter, Helen, when she repeatedly fails to answer her mother’s video calls. Somewhere within these vignettes, I realized that there’s something about virtual communication I might be taking for granted.

Judy’s calling from Islington, while Helen’s away volunteering in the thick of the Palestine conflict. We learn that their last reunion ended in a fight which Judy is aching to repair. The show touches on themes like performative activism and financial uncertainty, but it’s most simply the story of a mother who, having been “squeezed out” from her career as a lawyer and losing faith in the peace organization she herself has come to lead, is now losing faith in the one thing she thought she could always guarantee: family. Diana Quick is moving in the role of Judy. She speaks with quiet, determined intensity to what increasingly feels like a void, save for perhaps us, though Judy of course doesn’t know it. And she can be sardonically funny: “Oh look, it’s Thursday; must be time for me to talk to myself again.”

What makes Midnight Your Time work well, and perhaps sets it apart from other digital theatre, is that it feels organic. There’s the fact that the production was specifically written for Quick, for one. But beyond that, though the show was originally staged as normal in 2011, Brace conceived this version specifically for a digital format — rather than shoehorning into a webcam what is meant to be played out in a theater. The world of the play is a cozy corner of Judy’s (well, Quick’s) kitchen, of the bedroom, of the den. The story is such that there’s no sense it’s meant to be otherwise, or as though any key design elements were sacrificed to fit that world onto a screen.

Moreover, attention to detail remained subtly intact. You might notice how Judy’s hair gets more and more disheveled with each message as her desperation for a response grows deeper. The dim, grainy lighting, besides consistently suggesting that it’s nighttime, adds to the wistful tone of the production. And multiple scenes show Judy crying or nearly doing so as she goes through a range of emotions towards her daughter: sorrow, anger, disappointment, love, loneliness. Being closely “face-to-face” with Judy as she does so, to a degree few theaters could even provide, makes those moments all the more poignant.

Midnight Your Time is a worthy watch if you have 30 minutes to spare. If you’re hesitant to opt for a play about despair in an already grim time, that’s fair. But Judy does offer some words of optimism, too.

“You should be really happy that you’re going somewhere,” she says to Helen. “You might not know where you’re going, but it’s somewhere.”