IF you feel as confused as I did by the first act, do not despair, because it all becomes clear in act two.
Unfortunately though, the empathy ship has sailed and you don't really care a jot about what happens to the characters. This is a story told backwards, a story of love, jealousy and courage, as ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstances in wartime Britain. Post war we hear some of the characters waxing lyrical about these most testing of times.
Several characters are gay which interested me, to see how they fared in a country that wasn't as tolerant as it is today. Another, Robert Fraser, is a conscientious objector who finds himself banged up for the stance he took against the war. I found myself wanting to know more about this man, what made him tick. The scenes between Fraser (Ben Addis) and his homosexual cell mate Duncan (Joe Jameson) in a human zoo of a prison are particularly well done. Brace yourself for a terrifyingly authentic air raid thanks to the skills of RET sound man Dan Jones.
If Fraser was the male character who captured my imagination, the female accolade goes to Kay Langrish, who displays remarkable courage, as so many of that generation did when our country was put to the ultimate test. Jodie McNee plays this part brilliantly.
The Night Watch is based on a book by Sarah Waters and I now feel the urge to read what I imagine is a compelling tale. A tale that works better in print than it does on stage. That said, seeing gay characters portrayed as real people, not a stereotype in sight, was deeply refreshing.
* Until June 18. The box office is on 0161 833 9833. Star rating - ***