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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




New Room Theatre presents







Written by Mark Jeary

Directed by Gavin Curtis

Sound by Christian Curtis

Lighting by Markus Tarasenko Fadum


The Hope Theatre


18 Nov – 6 Dec 2014



Blackout opens out of the darkness with five characters frantically running around barefoot, shouting about their old notions of what an alcoholic looks like. It is blatantly apparent from the outset that tackling common stigmas around alcoholism will be central to the piece. Blackout sustains this direct and immediate approach throughout and it’s not long before we learn that all five bolting bodies are recovering alcoholics, married to meetings and navigating the ubiquitous 12-steps. The audience soon become privy to the sky-highs and floor-lows of their various relationships with alcohol.  This hard-hitting piece of verbatim theatre has been composed by one of its stars – Mark Jeary. Jeary has based the main dialogue of the play on interviews with recovering alcoholics. Following a critically acclaimed run in Edinburgh, Blackout is now running here in London under the creative direction of Gavin Curtis.

At an hour long and with no interval, Blackout is something of a visual and aural assault. Intense simultaneous movement from the characters in the small space at The Hope Theatre borders on intimidating at times. Coupled with the intimate and often distressing tales of drunkenness that the characters share, it makes for something far removed from a light-hearted evening of theatre. This is one of the play’s strengths and one of the things that Mark Jeary has said he was keen to get across. He has stressed the importance of keeping the very real nature of the narratives he used while simultaneously keeping an audience entertained – no mean feat.

Alcohol-sodden songs reverberate through the scenes and are well-placed. Nouvelle Vague’s version of ‘Too Drunk to Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys is particularly poignant since the play draws out the painful fact that being too drunk to fuck is not one and the same as being too drunk to be fucked. For Eight Years (Kim Maouhoub), listening to The Carpenters seemed to have correlated with her darkest times.  Her view of recovery and personal regeneration is the most cynical but she simultaneously delivers what is arguably the most refreshing perspective. 

Rory Fairbairn is Newcomer; the most recent recruit seems glad of a platform from which to purge his memories or lack thereof. Conversely, he is also the most ill-at-ease in the company of fellow alcoholics, a fact which is sensitively portrayed by Fairbairn. Sarah Barron’s performance is also of note.  She represents One Year with guileless authenticity and with the clearest descent in her narrative. From the dizzy highs of pissing off Scottish monuments with abandon to unutterable lows involving her son she careers through ecstasy through chaos to agony.

Blackout is fierce, unapologetic and arresting, and the entire cast act with vigour and intensity under Gavin Curtis’ direction. The play manages to avoid the potential sensationalism which the writer had endeavoured to steer clear of while still being resolutely forthright and at the same time darkly comic. This dual-effect is perhaps best encapsulated in the following words of insight which everyone is invited (encouraged even) to take away – “If your head is up your arse you can only see the darkness in yourself.”  A sobering reflection indeed.



The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street, London, N1 1RL
Mon - Sat 7.45pm
Tickets - £14 & £12 concs
Box Office - 0333 666 3366

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