Blackthorn (3 stars)

Blackthorn

credit: Anthony Robling

The contemporary tragic of rural aspirations

In this taut two-hander, Charley Miles' script addresses the gentrification of rural Yorkshire through the relationship of a man and a woman, slipping between a tense romantic drama and a broader commentary on how ambition and capitalism operate on the traditional community and agricultural industry. Charlotte Bate and Harry Egan offer lively, charismatic performances as the twin protagonists, a woman with intellectual aspirations and a man tied to his home, yet the mixture of personal and philosophical themes in the script sometimes leave them as mere symbols of deeper forces than rounded characters.

Jacqui Honess-Martin directs at a fast pace, taking advantage of the Roundabout's empty space to focus on the performers. The characters adopt their positions early: the man stays on the land, under-educated but aware of the need to adapt, while the woman goes to university, forges a career and a sentimentality for her hometown. Their competing entitlement – he believes that he deserves the farm for staying, she believes she knows better – cause a conflict that ultimately destroys their close emotional bonds.

While the reflections on home, the countryside and the nature of emotional connection are all explored, the dialogues between the pair follow a predictable pattern of conflict and irresolution: by the second half, they have settled into their positions and simply reiterate a generic city-country tension. While the structure is fixed, the sense of determinism gradually removes the dramatic power of the characters' conflict, making this an intriguing if limited investigation into contemporary social pressures.

Run ended.

Blackthorn

  • 3 stars

Charley Miles’ debut play explores the changes and choices that face the only two children born in a North Yorkshire village in a generation. Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn prize in 2017.

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