The Fringe is winding down and the relative sobriety of September may be beckoning, but the last of award-winning playwright Murray Watts’ three new plays has just opened. You have until 29th August to catch ‘First Light’, and it is well worth fitting in a viewing.

The story is set over 24 hours in a boarding school, where retiring house father and chaplain Tom Weston has recently lost his wife, and may be losing his faith. Sunk deep in his grief, he receives an unexpected nocturnal visit from a young pupil, also suffering and bereaved. She both seeks and provides comfort in equal measure, but innocence and scandal collide and both characters are left to deal with the aftermath.

The themes of responsibility and trust resonate in a society where authority figures often live in fear of accusation. Watts – with the help of an exceedingly strong cast – demonstrates to heartbreaking effect the consequences of society’s often paranoid approach to protecting our children.

Simple but effective sets, minimal music and unobtrusive lighting all contribute to the overall effect, but it is the performances which astonish. All four cast members are excellent, but Natalie Burt as schoolgirl Merry Catherwood is electrifying. By turns petulant, cheeky, flirtatious and heartrending, Burt radiates the defiant cockiness of a precocious teenager.

‘First Light’ may only be running for a few days, but it will remain with the audience long after they leave the theatre. Do make the most of its short run and catch it while you can.

23-29 Aug 1150 (1320) @ The Playhouse at Hawke & Hunter Green Room

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