Latest Review – Dark Noon [Aviva Studios, Manchester]


Aviva Studios, Manchester

Until Sunday 10th March 2024

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

There are times in the theatre that you come across a new piece of work that is so original and so unique that you cannot help but applaud and admire what the creatives have been able to achieve. Dark Noon is one such example.

In the space of 100-minutes – played straight through without an interval – a team of seven South African performers (six black and one white) transform a bare sandstone stage into one filled with makeshift props and furniture that audaciously flips the lid on the history of America to reassess and reimagine the savage rise of the Wild West.

A break-out hit of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Dark Noon now comes to Manchester’s new arts and culture hub Aviva Studios for a whistle-stop visit before heading off to the US for a tour to New York and on the festival circuit.

Helmed by Danish director Tue Biering and South African co-director Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Dark Noon rips open the familiar Wild West myth we have come to know. Unfolding in a series of increasingly brutal chapters, these stories are now told from the perspective of the Native Americans, Chinese immigrants and African slaves, with themes that still resonate in today’s world. Oppression, genocide, immigration, gun violence. It re-examines the tales that have been written in the history books and depicted on the screen in countless Western movies and TV series. It makes us think, and continues to ask difficult questions. It gives us an outside perspective on the brutality, the lawlessness of frontier life, and the real-life struggles of this oft-glorified and romanticised era. Here, history is interpreted by the vanquished, not the victors, as the saying usually goes.

At the end of the piece, the performers remove their wigs and talk as themselves, reminiscing about their own memories of Western movies – often used as a means to help develop English skills – and questioning whether it was wise for children to have been exposed to such gratuitous violence as such a young age. A powerful and revealing epilogue to close out the show.

Dark Noon is undeniably bold and daring, though some of the creative choices can feel rather jarring and disjointed. There’s an American Football game to settle a land disagreement, a TV reporter at the scene of the Gold Rush, and incongruous songs performed to acts of violence and Gold Fever. There’s a good deal of humour in the production too that doesn’t always work, and the pacing tends to drop from chapter to chapter. That said, the production does make frequent use of live video which is projected onto a screen at the back of the stage with performers moving about the space holding cameras and tripods. It is an intriguing device that is utilised well in the context and helps retain that raw Fringe-theatre feel, as well as hone-in on certain aspects that may have been missed.

All in all, Dark Noon is a surreal and wildly original production that will polarise and thrill in equal measure, but in a theatrical world flooded with jukebox musicals and adaptations, it is a refreshing change to see something so different and so bold that challenges, dares, and isn’t afraid to do something different.

Running Time: 1 hours and 40 minutes (approx.), with no interval.

Final Performance at Aviva Studios, Manchester: Sunday 10th March 2024

For more information, and to book tickets, please CLICK HERE.


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