Director: Richard Baron
Writer: David Harrower
Reviewer: Amy Taylor
The abusive sexual relationship between a pre-teen girl and a middle aged man is the subject of Firebrand’s revival of David Harrower’s award-winning 2005 drama, Blackbird. Directed by Richard Baron, this production begins as an unresolved dialogue between the abused and the abuser, but blurs the lines between truth, lies and responsibility.
Set in the messy canteen of a factory somewhere in England, middle-aged manager, Ray (Greg Wagland) is confronted by Una (Romana Abercromby) a young woman he had an abusive sexual relationship with 15 years earlier, when Una was 12 and he was 40. But while Ray has served time in prison and has moved to a new town assuming a new identity along the way, the secrets and lies of the past soon begin to threaten both of their futures.
Originally performed at the 2005 Edinburgh International Festival, Blackbird is perhaps one of Scotland’s most celebrated and controversial plays. Garnering critical acclaim, industry awards and performed all over the world, the play presents a multi-faceted story of abuse that frequently moves between two distinct arguments; that of an innocent girl abused by an older man, and that of the older man following his heart.
Given the sensitive subject matter, and the highly emotive performances, Firebrand Theatre’s latest production makes for disturbing and unsurprisingly uncomfortable viewing. Blackbird is nearly 90 minutes of Harrower’s powerful and evocative dialogue, which takes Una, Ray and the audience on a an almost disorientating journey through 15 years of memory, guilt and deception, yet never affords us the luxury of answering all of our most pressing questions.
Baron’s production wisely decides to strip back unnecessary and cumbersome large sets, relying instead on the cold and clinical surroundings of Summerhall’s Demonstration Room to tell Harrower’s cutting dissection of the rage, damage and regret suffered by both Ray and Una. The perfect setting for the acting talents of Wagland and Abercromby, as well as Jon Beales’ sound design, all the elements of Baron’s Blackbird combine to create a piece that perfectly boils over with pain, fury and an unrelenting sense of distrust and unease.
Another strong production from Firebrand Theatre Company, whose revival of Rona Munro’s Iron won them great acclaim and their lead actress Blythe Duff a CATS Award for Best Female Performance, their version of Blackbird is an unforgettable exploration of pain, abuse and raw fury that makes it an absolute must-see this February.