Bad Nights and Odd Days marks the first in-person production from Greenwich Theatre. It is a collection of four plays written by Caryl Churchill in the 70s and 80s, some of which were written for and broadcast on BBC Radio - Seagulls, Abortive, Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen and Three More Sleepless Nights. Performed by an ensemble of just six cast members, the rustic rollercoaster at the back of the stage truly foreshadows the waves of emotions to come in Bad Nights and Odd Days.
Seagulls is the first of the four plays and it follows the story of Valerie, an ordinary woman who discovers that she has telekinesis powers. She is visited by Cliff, an obsessive fan with a convincing American accent, who persistently asks Valerie questions. Through this seemingly annoying visit, Valerie exposes her own frustration and worries. It is interesting to note that she never manages to perform any sort of telekinesis act on stage - reflecting Caryl Churchill's own writer's block as a prominent playwright back in 1978. Whilst the performance of the actors is powerful, the plot feels a little thin.
Meanwhile,Three More Sleepless Nights takes the audience into an intimate setting - the bedrooms of three different couples. One couple argues intensely, another struggles to communicate and the last sees a comparatively more relaxed one. The most successfully executed play of the four due to its sheer variety of different storylines which come together neatly by the end, it explores a range of emotions and tone from lightheartedness, bittersweetness to heartaches.
Abortive is a two-hander play that also takes place in the bedroom, following the story of a couple who discusses heavy topics such as rape and abortion. The audience dives straight into Abortive from a relaxed interval rather unpredictably, which increase its seriousness. One of the key moments within Bad Nights and Odd Days definitely takes place around halfway through Abortive - sudden rain falls down on stage, leaving the couple soaking wet.
And lastly, Bad Nights and Odd Days end with Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen, a play still very much relevant to the present, tackling issues such as pollution, fire and violence. It is set in a tiny flat in London with two characters waiting for the third to arrive. This play is full of anxiety and uncertainty, as accurately reflected by the title of the play and Vivian's constant vocal twitches.
James Haddrell perfectly sums up Bad Nights and Odd Days in the director's note: "Those words, those electric ideas, those heated, energised or apparently vacant conversations, those utterly recognisable but so often horrifying scenarios have offered us our way into the plays, and that is what we are sharing with you now."
It would have been satisfying to see all four plays more closely linked together, especially with the long running time of three hours. However, the title of the collection, Bad Nights and Odd Days, does a good job of summarising them. To conclude, there is no doubt that this quirky yet brilliant production from Caryl Churchill is a perfect one to celebrate the return of live theatre.