Writer: David Harrower
Director: Gareth Nicholls
Reviewer: Harriet Brace
Shy about its subject matter Blackbird is not. You could be forgiven for wondering if a play that deals with an “illegal relationship with a minor” will even have an audience. But if you can set aside your reservations, prepare for a thrilling – if gruelling – ride.
The production follows an encounter between Ray (Paul Higgins) and Una (the Citz’s current Actor Intern, Camrie Palmer) 15 years after their relationship ended when Ray was 40 and Una was just 12.
On curtain up a bleak set of blinding strip lights and angular plastic echoes the interrogative atmosphere in the auditorium. Collectively stomachs harden in anticipation of the tough tale that is to come.
From the moment Ray and Una meet again, their racing thoughts become an emotional onslaught. Their initial stammering interactions weave into a mysterious history in which the truth is uncertain and reliability up in the air. Their words are variouslyvenomous bursts laced with unbridled disdain as they hurl hard honesty at one another across the stage, and then whispers of real feeling that are heart-rending. Their weird, uncomfortable connection is there throughout, whether it’s easy to comprehend or not.
Camrie Palmer as Una seems to physically grow as she is unburdened from her past. Beginning as a hard, almost inhuman force set on getting answers, she sends the audience through the emotional ringer as she opens up about her story and sets a series of shocking twists and turns in motion.
Meanwhile, seasoned performer Paul Higgins as Ray is intriguing and disturbing in equal measure as he struggles to come to terms with the reality of his past actions and their threat to his future.
Blackbird is based on the aftermath of an alarming situation and you might expect to leave the theatre in stunned silence, however, it does grab you by the gut and, like all the best thrillers, it may be unsettling to watch but you just can’t look away.
Runs until 5 March 2016 | Image: Tim Morozzo