Blackout delivers graceful and hard-hitting insight
Simple, brilliant, and in the second person
This article is from 2010.
Imagine you’re Davey Anderson, a playwright whose work has never shied away from the realities of life in working class Glasgow. The National Theatre, in partnership with children’s charity Barnardo’s, puts you in touch with a teenager who you’re going to call ‘James’, who is serving a probationary sentence for a violent crime. Imagine James tells you his story over a cup of tea, and with his permission you write a monologue from it. The script is in the second person.
Imagine you’re the director of ThickSkin, a brand new theatre company, set up with the exclusive aim of creating innovative, visual work. You take the script and break up the lines between a cast of very young, Glasgow-based actors, almost none of whom are professionally-trained, not that you’d be able to tell from the power of their performances. Together you make the story of this skinhead kid, fascinated by facism and chock-full of pop culture, capable of that same sudden violence that thousands of kids like him are, into a beautiful piece of multimedia, multiform theatre.
Imagine you’re watching Tom Vernel, in the central role, snapping from innocence to unhinged malevolence with just a tiny flicker of his jaw, or Danielle Stewart steely and magnificent as his mother. Imagine that the other actors, morphing and moving around him, pulling him about on a set they shift and dance with, become his id, take on his triumphs and his glee, and hand them back to you.
Imagine you’re watching a piece that, with grace and unflinching clarity takes you right inside the head of someone you’d previously felt unable to sympathise with, if you’d thought about him at all. Imagine that his story is addressed directly to you, as though you’re the one who’s had all these experiences. Imagine that.
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