Theatre review: Blackout

THERE’S the young woman who finds herself urinating off the Scott Monument. There’s the man who nearly burns down a stranger’s kitchen. And there’s the mother who gets one step away from battering her son to death.

Blackout - Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh


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What links them in Mark Jeary’s punchy 55-minute play is drink. In this verbatim-style collage, stories of euphoria, hedonism, recklessness, violence, hangovers and depression brought on by excess alcohol come thick and fast, shaken and stirred. Performed by five tremendously well-drilled actors, including Jeary himself, the fragmented narratives have the impressionistic quality of our bleary-eyed memories of yesterday’s night on the tiles.

They are vivid snapshots with the explanatory detail taken out; intense one minute, frighteningly vague the next.

Drawing on interviews with fellow recovering alcoholics, Jeary takes us beyond the first convivial drinks, beyond the happy partying and onwards to the helpless blackouts where drinking continues but everything is forgotten. The terrible incidents these addicts manage to recall through the haze of their amnesia makes them seem lucky to be alive.

It’s shaming to say the dark sections of New Room Theatre’s production are more compelling than the evangelical release that follows. You’re pleased the characters have got with the 12-step programme but, theatrically speaking, it’s less fun to see them clean.

However, the production – co-directed by Belle Jones and Josh Payne – is never less than dynamic. In place of conventional dramatic interaction, they keep the actors moving in tightly-choreographed patterns while maintaining the focus on the words. It makes for a lively, if sobering, evening.

Seen on 29.05.14

• Run ends today, then at Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow, 10 June