ABI BENNETT is so impressed with this play that she refuses to spoil it for you.
Corpus Playroom, 23-27th November,7pm. £5-6
Directed by Oliver Soden & Josephine Starte
Outside the Playroom after the opening night of David Harrower’s Blackbird, the shell-shocked audience huddled mutely, numbed by the powerful, absorbing, and utterly Harrowing (Editor’s note: I’ve already done this joke, get yesterday) play they had just witnessed. Their silence pays tribute to the amazing feat Oliver Soden and Jo Starte have pulled off, creating one of the most incredible pieces of theatre I have ever seen in Cambridge.
This is a difficult review to write; a twist comes very early on, and a lot of my enjoyment, if such a word can be used, came from my ignorance of the plot. I’m sure other reviewers will spoil this secret, but I’m going to avoid talking about it. So forgive the brevity of this review; but trust me, you must see this play. The publicity explicitly doesn’t mention the twist, it doesn’t even hint at it. In fact, the publicity is excellent; understated, yet intriguing, and suits the tone of the play perfectly. All I will say is that the play is billed as a two hander, but this isn’t strictly true. Shockingly so.
The entire audience watched spellbound; an incredible achievement for a play that is effectively two people in a room talking for an hour and a half. Soden’s Ray trod the line between empathy and repulsion perfectly, at times compelling the audience’s sympathy, at others making our skin crawl. His portrayal of a moderately successful, slightly pitiful, and greatly stressed middle aged man was astonishing; every mannerism, down to the smallest detail, combined to create a wholly believable performance. Starte, as Una, possibly had the harder task of the two, yet she excelled. Her character vacillated between accusatory, pleading, hostile, sexual, and back again, and yet she managed all this with élan. The disturbing mix between childlike and adult that she portrayed fitted the character perfectly, adding yet another dimension to this play.
Although you may not enjoy this play in the most literal sense of the word, if you value theatre as powerful art form you must see this. I cannot stress highly enough the gap between the quality of Blackbird and almost everything else this term. See this, see this, see this. Please.