Friday 18th November 2005
By Philip Ellwood
‘Blackout‘ is a simple but effective play. The premise sees a group of recovering alcoholics gathering at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Christmas Eve. Together they share their stories and experiences whilst trying to encourage a new member to face up to the reality of her alcohol addiction. The issues addressed by ‘Blackout‘ are at the forefront of much public debate in the 21st Century. The experiences shared by the group‘s members remind the audience just why the government are debating over the idea of longer drinking hours.
The success of ‘Blackout‘ lies in the strength of the acting, direction and the writing. The dialogue is realistic, witty and never feels like the play is labouring a point. The audience can relate to these people and an emotional connection with them is inevitable. I doubt that anyone could sit through the play without becoming emotionally involved with at least one of the characters.
The stand-out performance came from Gary Lawrence as Tim. Lawrence played the part with a sincerity and vulnerability that had the audience laughing one minute and close to tears the next. When Tim is telling his story, Lawrence manages to flesh out the character and establishes himself as the most 3-dimensional of all the characters. It feels that we learn more about him and his family than we do about the others.
The subject matter whilst being hard-hitting is layered with humour. The female characters in particular provide a few moments of light relief (the Scouse female provides the most laughs).
Kathy (Rosie Morris) provides the most hard-hitting story and proves to be the most complex character. The play centres around her appearance at the meeting and her refusal to reveal why she is there. The other characters reveal their stories to encourage Kathy to share hers with the aim of helping her overcome her addiction. Kathy begins the play being unsure if she has a problem but as more revelations surface, it becomes apparent that she is desperately in need of help.
The one criticism I have about the play is the cliche of Tim‘s backstory. Whilst I am in no doubt about the affects of sexual abuse it just felt a shame that the one homosexual character had been abused by his father as a child. This seems to reinforce the oft thought idea that sexual orientation can be a direct result of childhood experience rather than simply being something a person is born with. Aside from this I couldn‘t pick fault with the production.
Brian Timoney was commendable as first-time director and also as group member Jim. The entire performance suggests that Timoney has great potential as a director. To be able to extract such strong performances from all of the actors as a first-time director is an enviable achievement. With the right choices in the future Timoney could be a theatre force to keep an eye on.
‘Blackout‘ is well worth seeing. The subject matter may be heavy but the play is engaging, emotional and very enjoyable.
Director - Brian Timoney
Celebrities Worldwide Rating - 8 out of 10