Filmed in a breath-holding single take in a small performance space, Into the Night tells the real-life tale of a doomed lifeboat rescue mission off the Cornish coast in 1981. Combining clever camerawork, projected visuals, live music and heartfelt performances, this feels like an entirely new dramatic genre from the aptly named Original Theatre Company – one that combines the fallibility and intimacy of theatre with the scope and technical wizardry of film.
Frazer Flintham’s script is based on a book by local resident Michael Sagar-Fenton, and hums with harrowing detail. The crew had no pagers – so it was down to the village landlady to pick up the phone and send the lifeboat volunteers out to sea. They had no GPS signal, either, so when the stranded ship’s radio fails, it’s up to a single man and his binoculars to send the rescuers in the right direction.
As the camera jumps from the twinkling Christmas lights inland to the flickering switchboard of the HM Coastguard control, the red rescue helicopter or the rain-soaked cabin of a nearby tugboat, we get a sense of an ever-expanding network of rescuers heroically pulling together. Often, we’re shown the mere suggestion of a scene – a sign that says “The Sea” or a lifejacket quickly being snatched – and are then left to fearfully fill in the gaps ourselves.
Covid factors mean this final product is a recording of the dress rehearsal. That’s no bad thing. Every missed cue (and there aren’t many in director Alastair Whatley’s immaculately conceived production) only makes the actors feel that little bit more human, and the awful loss this small community experienced just that little bit more real.