Blackbird by David Harrower
If you like your theatre to be a cosy, entertaining evening, with coffee and a pleasant chat with friends after, this is not the play for you.
On the other hand, if you like to be engaged and challenged, to have your moral preconceptions dissected and examined in the space of little more than an hour, then Blackbird is.
You’ll leave the show aching to discuss personal and social morality aspects of child abuse, and a need to be reprogrammed convincingly on the issue.
Principals Kathryn Fray (Una) and Daniel Murphy (Ray), and director Mark Conaghan handle the delicate subject matter adroitly.
The untidy, littered lunch room of a middle-sized company to which the action is confined, is a metaphor for their messy lives since the ‘brief romantic encounter’ (I hesitate to call it ‘child abuse’ − you’ll have to see the play to know why) took place fifteen years earlier. Una was only twelve.
Focus of the action is Una’s determination to meet up again with Ray. Is it a subconscious need for redemptive justice or something more sinister? That’s another thing you’ll decide for yourself.
‘Harrower’ is appropriate for this playwright – is it his real name or a penname? – for he certainly disturbs painfully or keenly, the minds of his audience.
Cast and creative crew served Harrower’s intention brilliantly.
The subject matter may feel uncomfortable, but to avoid this play will limit your understanding of the wider ramifications of so-called child molestation.
Photograph: Daniel Murphy and Kathryn Fray. Photo by Alice Muhling