DramaNorth WestReview

Black Mountain – Paines Roundabout, Little Hulton

Writer: Brad Birch

Director: James Grieve

Reviewer: Andrea Allen

Rebecca and Paul are off on a country break. But this is far from the idyllic isolated getaway, it’s time for an intervention, they’re here to save their relationship. As the couple try to work through their issues, the mind-games begin, and as reality and paranoia blur through the isolated landscape, someone is tightly controlling every movement.

Harold Pinter Commission winning Black Mountain is not your run of the mill play, those seeking traditional narrative should do a U-turn. Brad Birch’s tense, twisted, disorientating thriller is sickeningly well-crafted with vivid characterisation, tight dialogue and a style that curdles out sinister from every syllable. Spine-tinglingly talented, Birch’s command of dialogue is sublime, and it’s worth picking up a copy of the script on your way out so you can appreciate this incredible writer’s again in the period between now and the next time one of his plays comes to town.

Devastatingly, director James Grieve’s production doesn’t come close to doing Birch’s words justice. In part it seems that the intimacy of the space has been overlooked. Rebecca (Katie Elin-Salt) is amplified to near cartoonish levels, it’s disappointing that the consequential sense of irritation outweighs any sense of tension for a good slice of this 70-minute, three-hander. A more controlled portrayal would have better displayed the subtle nuances of the character as well as avoiding the stony silence with which the cleverly crafted moments of observational humour are met in the opening few scenes.

This strange direction also crucially hampers the believability of the relationship between Rebecca and Paul (Hasan Dixon), and perhaps even more detrimentally, mutes Paul’s gradual descent into disorientation and madness making the final conclusion feel more hollow than horrifying. Coupled with a somewhat heavy-handed soundscape, it’s a devastating blow to Birch’s sophisticated, complex writing, and a tragic case of incredible writing meeting misjudged direction.

Runs until 10th September 2017 | Image: Contributed

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Sublime writing, Misjudged direction

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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