Review-Blackout: a work in progress

Harlow Playhouse / Fri 28th Apr 2017 at 05:05pm


Blackout: a work in progress

By Karly Mouncey-Jaggers

WHEN ‘work in progress’ is attached to a piece there is always a little voice that tells me to be gentle when watching as a critic. That voice was easily silenced when experiencing Blackout on Wednesday night. Apart from a few minor technical issues this piece was written, produced and acted with passion and that passion shines through like a beacon.

Starting with a brisk walk through the bowels of The Playhouse Theatre audience members were presented with a set of glowing headphones. These immediately immersed us into the world Katie Lyons and Ella Grace have crafted.

Much like immersive giants Secret Cinema the technology used throughout this show was clever and well placed. The use of 3D recording gave the audience a soundscape that was both tangible and overwhelming. As often is the case with immersive/site specific pieces dialogue can be lost dependent on the location. The use of microphones directly linked to the headphones meant that even those furthest away from the action were able to hear with clarity.

The singing and music could have been jarring but the creators have worked it faultlessly into the play. The music provides an eerie and alienating feel that made the lyrics sink in more, the repetitive nature of some of the songs gave the audience a chance to digest them. I must take a quick moment to commend Ella Grace for her composure of the music, the melody and tone of the songs were faultless, reminiscent of Willy Russell. If hearing these songs without knowing they came from the Harlow Playhouse I would have unquestioningly accepted them as West End calibre.

All the actors portrayed multiple roles with ease but I must make specific mention of Delme Thomas who stood out. Each role he played was performed with a deep subtext and meaning. It was clear whenever my eye was drawn to him and this was frequently, that he was completely in character. His ability to slip between accents and body language to change persona is commendable.

During the Q and A afterwards, the audience was somewhat spilt about the ending. It didn’t really have one. Although both sides of the energy debate were being represented there was never an occasion in which we were persuaded that one was correct. Instead the piece did a good job of portraying how complicated the issue is and for a political topic the show remained relatively objective.

I could linger over the few unpolished bits of the piece but I would be knit picking. The bones of the piece; the passion, acting, direction and immersive techniques were very good. What Blackout has achieved in a mere eight days is remarkable. When this piece is finished I am looking forward to experiencing it in its entirety and I urge you to do the same.

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