David Harrower’s powerful two-hander Blackbird is no easy ride, even for experienced actors. But its minimal requirements — a room, some chairs, a bit of rubbish and a few actors — make it the perfect choice for Fringe. First premiering in 2005 at the world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it has since travelled around the world with some very well-known actors inhabiting its characters.
For the Sydney Fringe this year, Throwing Shade Co. have put together an ambitious little production, directed by Andrew Langcake, with Eleanor Ryan, William Jordan and Grace Truman.
Blackbird tells the story of Una and Ray. She turns up at his workplace unannounced, having seen his picture in a magazine. The two were in a relationship fifteen years ago, when she was 12 and he was 40. Then Ray got cold feet and fled, and they haven’t seen each other since. Until now.
After some years in prison, Ray moved on and made a new life for himself, created a new identity. For Una, still living in the same family home, it couldn’t have been more different. And now she wants answers.
Inspired in part by the crimes of sex offender Tony Studebaker, Harrower’s script is dark and unflinching.
As Una, Ryan is compelling. Her thorough understanding of character is obvious, and she has a strong presence on stage. Jordan as Ray plays the contrast well. Ray is scrambling from the beginning, while Una is in complete control. Together, the two establish a nice tension. But murky direction from Langcake means some of the impact is lost, when the actors get stuck behind the table or wander aimlessly around the room.
Although the playwright is Scottish, there needn’t have been any accents in this production. The performances would have been a lot stronger had the actors been able to use their own voices. Understandably they wanted to stay true to the original text, but in this case it hindered rather than helped.
It’s a great play, and this production certainly has potential. The Off Broadway Festival Hub is a great venue, perfect for this show. With a little more fine-tuning this could be a great piece of theatre.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now