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Blackbird

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
You could hear a pin drop on the opening night of Katie Posner's
touring revival of David Harrower's blistering psycho-sexual
pas-de-deux. The fact that the bulk of the audience for this
co-production between Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal were in
their teens speaks volumes about exactly how much they can take in
terms of a thoroughly adult play that neither patronises or exploits
them. Instead, Harrower lays bare some of society's greatest taboos
through the eyes of one life-changing event's survivors.

First seen at the 2005 Edinburgh International Festival, this new,
studio size production is made all the more provocative by the close
proximity of its protagonists, Ray and Una. Caught off-guard in the
mess of his strip-lit work-place, fifty-something Ray attempts to keep
a proper distance from the brittle, tomboyish woman on a mission he had
a whirlwind affair with fifteen years earlier, when she was twelve.
With both parties desperate for some kind of closure, an emotional
mish-mash of love and anger erupts into dangerous, all-consuming life
once more.

It's hard to go wrong with such powerfully engaging writing, and there
are some frantically contrasting moments between George Costigan and
Charlie Covell, sparring throughout the play's relentless seventy-five
minutes. When the pair kick over all the gathered tea-break detritus,
it seems to signal some kind of long-suppressed, child-like liberation.
Yet when the building's lights go out, Una's sense of renewed
abandonment is painfully palpable. As Ray and Una go round and round in
increasingly urgent, self-lacerating circles, some kind of fractured
reconciliation seems likely in a troublingly honest affair which only
the grown-ups dare walk out of.

The Herald, November 17th 2011

ends

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