The Night Guardian patrols the dark city, masked, caped and equipped with superpowers, but rather than a lone vigilante she is part of the formal justice system, making arrests like any other officer with psychic control over other people’s visual cortices. Raised from childhood for her role, she accepts the loneliness and the responsibility, and never asks questions. This changes with the rise of Dr Chaos, a rogue reporter who hacks into the broadcast networks to challenge the government’s actions and to present disturbing material about prisoners who were apprehended by the Night Guardian’s psychic powers.
Jessica Messenger steps into the titular role, with its cape and confusion, with confidence. Her character would have been stronger with a little more establishment of the superhero persona initially, before the descent into self-doubt and questioning that marks the progress of the Night Guardian through this narrative. Messenger handles the contradictions of the role with flair, strongly supported by Nick Maclaine’s Dr Chaos, potentially the real hero of this locked down society. Maclaine plays the boyishly enthusiastic reporter with engaging ease, and depicts a melodramatically appealing Dr Chaos. The two strike the classic superhero and sidekick poses with nonchalance, dominating the stage together. Gemma Sharpe plays several characters, and shifts between the various portrayals with ease. As the blind sensei to the Night Guardian she has a strong New York accent for no particular reason, but which is effective in differentiating her from any of her sighted characters. Craig Williams makes the most of the dramatic potentials of his various characters, especially compelling in the dream/childhood memory sequence in which the Night Guardian’s parents discover her powers.
Sara Chirichilli’s wonderful costume design, with its figure-hugging, caped superhero, evokes the essence of 20th Century comic books. While the Night Guardian’s mask is effective at concealing her identity, it does seem more like a niqab than the conventional (and less useful) stylised face decorations of other heroes with secret identities. Allowing for quick changes, the side characters nonetheless are distinctively garbed, assisting with easy identification of parts with the limited cast. While Maclaine’s day wear fits with his young reporter part well, his simple transformation into Dr Chaos wows with a Hunger Games aesthetic.
Stage design, while simple and versatile with a collection of crates being reconfigured between scenes, is not always useful in assisting with scene creation. While it works well in a café scene, and has its moments in a prison break in, there are several times where it creates confusion. Emma Brown’s lighting design, however, in a drama about a superhero who makes light in the dark and vice versa, is spot on, perfectly timed with the action. Fight choreography, particularly between Messenger and Sharpe, is perfect, with stylised biff bam pow moves neatly executed and fitting in with the genre, courtesy of Fight Choreographer Andy Fraser.
The Night Guardian offers decent entertainment with its sharply written quips, romantic developments, coming of age realisations, commentary on social justice and deftly manoeuvred combat scenes. Worth a look if you get an opportunity, if only to cheer on a home-grown superhero.
Perth Theatre Trust and Ellandar Productions present
The Night Guardian
by Jessica Messenger
Director Lawrie Cullen-Tait
Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre, Subiaco
Dates: 17 – 20 June 2015
Part of the Independent Theatre Festival