David Harrower’s Blackbird is hard-hitting. There’s no doubting, regardless of interpretation, that you will leave with more questions focused on the core of your morals and potentially the justice system. Blackbird at The Other Room in Cardiff continues the run of carefully curated productions which flourish in the intimate space, creating an experience which lasts longer than the 75 minutes of script.
The strength of Blackbird is known, winning ‘Best New Play’ at the Olivier Awards in 2007 and taken to Broadway, a new company – The Two Imposters – certainly took on a challenge with this production. They chose well in their casting of Sophie Melville as Una and Christian Patterson as Ray, accompanied by Millie Davies as the Girl.The play begins with an entrance into a staff room, so familiar of factories, warehouses and shops. There is an instant placement in Una’s words as buildings off motorways are reminisced.
The story carefully unfolds. At first in monosyllabic, quickly changing to rambles, in verbal explosions of everything. Blackbird tells the story of Una, who tracks down the man who abused her when she was twelve. Exploring what followed, both over the course of fifteen years, but also the immediate aftermath which led to the arrest.
It is the non-verbal of the play which brings the reality of the story. Melville successfully brings a nervous energy, maintained and consistent, creating so much tension. Never quite sincere in laughter. Still seemingly seeking acceptance, love.
And herein lies what has so successfully been directed by Rupert Hands. You can’t help but like Ray. Patterson weaves a character whom is likeable, you would like to believe the conviction of love. You would like to believe the exhaustion of creating a life beyond what had been. At times you are almost being asked to question who the victim is, whether there is a victim.And this is what I love about a great play and conviction on the stage. I left having more questions about the way the justice system used to operate.
As Una described a life which didn’t allow her to move from the area, that didn’t allow her to change her name.
That from the age of 12 she got to carry a label, given to her by more than emotion, but a judgement which questioned a 12-year old’s role in abuse.What was perfectly executed is the question of what happens to the victim. How can they move on if identities are not protected, if courts are able to place labels.
And before a register, whether Ray is truthful, is it ok for a mother to unknowingly introduce her adolescent daughter.
Blackbird at The Other Room leaves your reeling. The starkness of Ruth Hall’s set, contrasting with the mess of the surroundings. There is something about the impact on a person’s mind. The inability to clear the chaos and move on.
The stimulus of David Harrower’s script is no doubt fraught, disturbing. Brought to life delicately by Hands, there is something almost beautiful brought in the performances by Melville and Patterson which creates the essence of the questions with which you are left.
Blackbird by David Harrower is at The Other Room until Friday 4th November 2016. Tickets are available from The Other Room website.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own.