Neither hilarious nor haunting, the claim this play makes to such titles falls as flat as the claim that it is a comedy. Two men sit in a hotel lobby during the night shift. The elder appears to be training the younger and has a fascination with ghosts; the younger is outwardly sceptical but, shock horror, turns out to be actually quite scared. Occasionally there are references to deadbeat dads and alcoholic mothers and naturally there is a bang every once in a while to wake up the audience more than scare them. There are two of these moments that work; the third that is meant to happen at the end of the play was so obvious that blind koalas in Canberra saw it from a distance.
Never has a play made me so physically angry in the audience before, mainly due to the vast amounts of potential that goes wasted. The two performances from the actors are decent and it is this alone that earns it an extra star. It is clear that they possess acting talent but it is severely hampered by the script they are forced to use. Frequent possibilities to have some funny quick-fire back-and-forth banter go wasted with lines that ramble on for too long or use swearing in place of wit or a punch line.
Had the play not claimed it was a comedy, my opinion may have been tempered. Indeed, there were several moments that were vaguely tragic and serious and I cannot help but feel that whoever plastered the programme with the words ‘hilarious’ and ‘haunting’ had never seen the moments that were arguably the best of the play.
Night Porters shone with things that it could have been, but somebody instead decided to ham-fistedly squeeze it into a tired things-that-go-bump-in-the-night formula that nobody could find funny if they tried.