Uinseann Mac Thómais – Blackbird, disturbing play, powerfully performed

Memphisto Theatre company perform a difficult play with merit during the Galway Theatre Festival

By Uinseann Mac Thómais

It was to sustained applause, deservedly so, that Blackbird a play by David Harrower ended. For a play to work it must excel in the sum of its component parts; the script, the directing, the acting, the set, costume, sound and lights. It did. The audience, a sometimes forgotten component, got it from the off. Rapt defines it nicely. From the opening strains of the The Beatles song “Blackbird” the audience was hooked and drawn into the theme, uncomfortable still for many, of an illicit relationship between a man and a young manipulative girl with “ suspiciously adult yearnings”. This is a grim play set in a grim setting. The story unfolds, initially erratically, in a locker room or canteen of a grubby factory unit. The grimy and litter strewn setting is a precursor to the litter of the two lives that are to be revealed. Una, played with appropriate intensity, by Emma O’ Grady visits the workplace of Ray, alias Peter, played by a sometimes excessively twitchy Ian Watt, to confront him on an episode in their lives twelve or more years earlier when she was a child “with a crush” on him.

The dramatist Harrower is well named. This play causes distress to the viewer as it explores misguided love interchanging with abuse. It is a very “wordy” play with long monologues that might have worked better with some editing but yet it did not take too much from the telling. There are a few moments of relief in this play where some cynical comments occasion the audience to laugh. It is a very temporary respite however from the awfulness of the theme. A moment of intended pitch black darkness, a total blackout, in the middle of the play, was in a perverse way, a relief too. The audience played its part in those moments – not a single sound was heard from the audience for the duration of those dark moments.

A cameo role by emerging actress Orla Gaffney is well executed too.

Memphisto (www.memphistotheatre.com) is a Galway-based theatre company that produces both established and lesser known plays. Based on this production, it is obvious that they do it with verve. Long may they continue.

Uinseann Mac Thómais
An Taibhdhearc
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