Theatre review: Nighthawks

Nighthawks Leith Academy, Edinburgh ***

EDWARD Hopper's Nighthawks is a brooding painting of lonely city life, an image of three customers and a man serving in the only illuminated corner of a shadowy after-hours street. It is this picture that playwright Annie George alludes to in the debut production by community company Blueprint, except here, instead of the moody 1940s New York diner of the original, we find a struggling Leith caf called the Nighthawks where the Edinburgh haar casts a haze over the clientele.

It's a short play with a wistful air, its characters passing through or moving on, dealing with their problems in private, unable to connect.

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Vaguely reminiscent of William Inge's Bus Stop, in which a group of unrelated passengers are forced into each other's company, it is a vision of a city in transition, a place struggling to hang on to its community bonds or replace them with something new.

Reeling from the death of her father, Amelia (Isabel Mendes) tries to keep the family caf afloat while her brother Hakeem (Alloysious Massaquoi) gets caught up with a local gangster (Matthew Stanhope) and her customers search for meaning in an uncaring world.

George's short televisual scenes can be inconsequential, she leaves some narrative strands dangling and staples on a major dramatic turning point at the very end, too late to be meaningful. But there are several strong performances in Eleanor Morrison's elegiac production, with its well-judged sound design by Graeme Arthur, making a bold start for the company and this year's Leith Festival.

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