Review: Dark Noon

Sophisticated historical and social commentary that draws on cinematic conventions

★★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Dark Noon
Photo by S├Áren Meisner
Published 05 Aug 2023

Westerns are not just important to American cinema, their influence can be felt around the world. The ensemble of South African actors that perform this show prove it. Over 100 minutes, they draw on cinematic conventions from cowboy movies to powerfully critique the European invasion of the Americas, and position the frontier as a site of colonial violence.

The script's strength is its stylistic complexity and nuance. After the opening, cartoonish duel, the company acknowledges that disease and famine drove many of these Europeans from their homes. While this generates sympathy, their dangerous journey across the sea evokes the Middle Passage that enslaved Africans suffered. The Black cast members rubbing talc on themselves and donning blonde wigs seems absurd, but not when considered against the legacy of blackface. The white characters can be comically stereotypical, which makes the constant shootings of Native Americans characters all the more serious. Metatheatre, live video feeds and audience participation contribute well to the production's sophisticated historical and social commentary.

The cast work together with ease and skilfully navigate the use of multiple cameras. They also assemble an entire set over the course of the show, and do their best to play to the audiences on three sides of the stage. There are sightline issues by the end once the American plains have become a thriving town. Issues like this are minor in the face of the impact of white supremacist imperialism that this show drives home.