Break of Noon
Reviewed – 28th May 2018
“At points it sounds more like he is reading a menu than philosophising on love and religion”
From the Indian Ocean, to Hong Kong, to China, ‘Break of Noon’ follows the interweaving lives of four people, underscored by the murmurings of rebellion and decolonisation. Ysé is unhappily married to an entrepreneurial chancer who chases money across the globe. On one of their voyages she meets Amalric, an ex lover of years before, who pushes her towards the arms of Meza, who must choose between his faith in God and this strange new love for Ysé. Autobiographical to some extent, Paul Claudel wrote the play in 1905 but its resurrection is unfortunately a resounding failure.
Every element of the play is weak. The design is weak, getting progressively more lacklustre as the acts go on, and the costumes lack any attention to detail. The direction has the cast standing predominantly still, proclaiming monologue after monologue to each other, crowded statically in corners of the stage, unnatural and uncomfortable to watch.
Whilst some of the language of love is truly beautiful, every speech is so long, so dragged on that it takes an incredible effort to stay engaged with what is being said. The speeches drag on and one metaphor clouds another until the beauty of the words is lost in their mass. It is unclear why the decision to resurrect this play has been made, and it feels overblown, declamatory and clunky, and climatic moments become laughable.
Matt Lim struggles desperately in the central role of Meza. He improves marginally in the final act, but is otherwise bland and uncharacterised. At points it sounds more like he is reading a menu than philosophising on love and religion. There is no connection or chemistry between Meza and Ysé, and this irresistible, all consuming love is something we hear about a lot but do not see onstage. He is inappropriately cast, certainly considerably younger than the role requires, making him incredibly difficult to believe. The other three are stronger, and do their best with a combination of rigid script and direction. Whilst his part is the smallest, David Durham as De Ciz is strong, committed and convincing, and Connor Williams as Amalric is equally persuasive. Elizabeth Boag’s Ysé is fluent, warm and playful, a woman struggling to survive in a world where her free will is not guaranteed, and she must be disarmingly reliant on the men around her for her safety.
The energy and commitment of these three is commendable, and all that drives the play onwards, in an otherwise unsuccessful resurrection of Claudel’s ‘Break of Noon’.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Hannan Images
Break of Noon
Finborough Theatre until 5th June