Nocturne review – a promenade through London's night song


Tethered together with a rope, we are taking a night-time guided tour of Deptford, south-east London. We start in the library, drop our bags and leave our phones behind. The landscape outside makes a beautiful stage, with boat under brick under crane under star. The leash between us garners some unusual looks, but Krista Burāne and Andy Field’s quiet promenade performance is about seeing, not being seen.

Running for three hours as the sun melts away, Nocturne is slow, at first gloriously so. The group stops to observe a swarm of insects, a fox, a blackbird bobbing across a fence. Animals and humans sharpen under the soft scrutiny Nocturne encourages. Unorchestrated moments drop us in on people’s daily lives: someone practising the piano; friends dancing behind half-drawn curtains; a boy playing basketball. Other than our guides, this piece contains no actors or stooges. The city simply performs its night song. We walk away from the boy but turn back to look. He scores.

Nocturne transforms the cacophony of London into a delicate piece of sound design. Reading in the hush of the library, the quiet heightens our senses. An apple is munched, and every incision is audible. Pages turn with a whoosh, and leaves are loud beneath us. As we walk, the smells are vivid, too. Cut grass. A bin that needs emptying. A whiff of weed that spills out from a van.



Transforms the cacophony of London into a delicate piece of sound design … Nocturne. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Returning to the library before repeating the circuit, there are activities that feel like fillers. Artificial sounds created to echo the night are almost comical, and the gentle dropping of toy cars and cigarette packets into a vase of clear water act as too obvious a metaphor for human pollution. By far more beautiful are the moments of stillness, atop a hill or under a tree, where the landscape does the talking. But as the night wears on, the snail’s pace becomes tiresome.

With few words, this promenade performance invites reflection on how we treat the landscape we live in. As we’re separated from our group and each handed a map, the route suddenly feels familiar. Before we head off individually to repeat the walk a third and final time, we pause to watch the flight of a bird. Crossing its path is an aeroplane, drawing a chalky line through the darkening sky.



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