The NightwatchmanDoes life hold anything for us once we can no longer look after ourselves?

Daniel Keene’s The Nightwatchman is a contemplative, elegiac piece that explores the emotional reverberations between a father and his children as he prepares to move out of the family home.

The action takes place over a few days as the two adult children, Helen (Camilla Ah Kin) and Michael (Alex Dimitriades) return to their large, now dilapidated, house to help their blind father, Bill (William Zappa), make the move into a hospice.

Daniel Keene’s melancholy, poetic work explores universal frustrations such as loneliness, old age, artistic impotence, marital disappointment and loss. However, through the character of Bill, there is a strong sense of resilience that underpins it all.

Director, Lee Lewis presents a pared back and sensitive production, with a distinctly European sensibility. The Nightwatchman’s tone is reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman: suffused with emotional sparseness and internalised frustrations. Much is left unsaid. The drama lies within the individual journeys rather than any external conflict.

Designer, Alice Babidge’s spartan, fine grey gravel stage reflects the emotional spare tone of the production.

As the family gathers together for the first in a long time their feelings are poignantly laid bare in the garden. Keene dissects tensions that exist in their current lives as well as their sense of loss at being confronted with the end of an era.

The lush garden setting, in particular the cherry tree, is rich with symbols of both transience and nurturing. It  provides the chance for the family to recall warm family memories, the simple joys of their childhood as well as the loss of their mother and their father’s future.  Keene uses the unifying metaphor of blindness and seeing throughout the play as an individual motif for each of the characters.

Alex Dimitriades gives a low key, measured performance as the inscrutable and troubled Michael, a lonely, peripatetic photographer, who is grappling with the loss of his artistic vision.

Camilla Ah Kin’s beautiful and idiosyncratic performance as Helen movingly reveals the character’s suppressed anguish.  Ah Kin plays the dutiful daughter who can barely repress her dissatisfaction with her current life and her deep sorrow that her father’s life is coming to an end.

William Zappa gives an extraordinary performance as Bill, the blind aging father. Unlike his children, who both keep their emotions below the surface, Bill openly confronts his fears and frustrations. He sets aside his stoicism to reveal his abiding frustration at being blind. Bill is a mix of good cheer, irascibility, resignation and genuine affectation for his children. Having already endured the loss of his sight and his wife, Bill faces leaving his home with a pragmatic, existential resignation, knowing there is little point to rail against things he can’t change.

Daniel Keene’s play is as much about what we were as about what we have and will become.

Griffin Theatre Company presents the Australian premiere of
by Daniel Keene

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW 2011
Previews: 9, 10, 12 and 13 March
Premiere: 14 March
Season: 15 March – 7 April 2007
Times: Monday at 6:30pm. Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm. Saturday Matinee at 2pm
Tickets: Full $42. Snr $35. Preview/Matinee/Conc. $32. Group 8+ $32. Under 30 $25
Monday Pay-What-You-Can performances are sponsored by City Of Sydney (min $10)
Bookings: 1300 306 776 or online at

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