From Morning To Midnight is a big show, in ambition, in ideas and in staging.
You might even call it experiential, such is the impact of director Melly Still’s production, which fills the cavernous Lyttelton stage with unforgettable sights and sounds.
There’s an irony here. The impersonally named Clerk at the centre of the piece, who has spent his life bringing efficient service with an impartial expression to the customers of a bank, flips when a beautiful Italian stumbles up to his counter. Stealing as much cash as he can hide on his person – the equivalent of £900,000 the programme notes tell me, so he must have very large pockets – with a new found vigour and thirst for living he launches into a quest to find a truly life-affirming experience. If only he’d had tickets to see this show!
To be fair, he’d probably have sat in the pre-performance stalls taking in the murmur and wondered what the fuss was about.
The tableaux of an imposing clock looming, Hugo-like, over proceedings might have piqued his interest.
But when the monotonous, repetitive nature of Clerk’s bank life was laid out through Al Nedjari’s movement, when it dawned on him that the over-exaggerated sounds of money being counted were created with near-perfect synchronisation by cast members seated at the side of the stage, when he took in the beauty and ingenuity of Soutra Gilmour’s set, he must surely have realised he could spend his money watching the show night after night.
Okay, it is a little odd in places. The appearance of a skull-faced death with giveaway limbs is a touch surprising. But then Georg Kaiser did write this piece in 1912 at the vanguard of German Expressionism – the updated version comes from the pen of Matilda The Musical’s Dennis Kelly – so symbolism shouldn’t be that much of a shock. No more so than the use of shadow, the imposing sound and music by Christopher Shutt and David Price or the nihilist thoughts being explored.
It is a joy to have Adam Godley back on the London stage in the leading role. He is an actor full of character and pours confusion, anger, desperation, exasperation, inquisitiveness and naivety into his performance. A man who could so easily be dislikeable as he delves into the ‘delights’ offered by society and sex, is in his hands understandably befuddled, searching for what may have been missing from his life for years that wads of cash should make available but inevitably doesn’t.
Naturalistic it isn’t. But its theatricality sticks in the mind as long as the play’s title suggests, and longer.