Blackout at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Blackout:

What does the blurb say about Blackout: Blackouts were the worst. Blackouts made me forget… Thank God for blackouts.’ Meet the woman who finds herself urinating off the top of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh. The man who nearly burns down a stranger’s kitchen. The mother who almost beats her son to death in a drunken rage. Blackout is the honest, brutal, uplifting and darkly comic story of alcoholics, and ultimately of their hope in recovery. Scripted entirely from interviews with recovering addicts, including the writer.

Blackout

Production shot from the 2016 tour of Blackout – photos by Mihaela Bodlovic

I have to confess I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Blackout, an hour of verbatim retelling of alcoholics stories, I wasn’t sure how coherent it would be, least of all worth watching. It shows how wrong I was.

The stage is simple. 5 actors on a bare stage, simply lit by strip lighting surrounding the stage perimeter. It looks stark and shows the audience that these actors will have nowhere to hide.

Each actor retells an individual’s narrative. We meet the newcomer played by Cameron Fulton, a young gay man, the one year alcoholic played by Miriam Sarah Doren who goes from uritinating off tall buildings to beating up her son, Camille Marmie who plays the six year alcoholic who by her own confession doesn’t need drink to sing karaoke, the ten year alcoholic played by Hounda Echouafni the Palestine Woman who is disowned by her sisters and finally the old timer played by Mark Jeary (who also wrote the piece). The choice of the lives we hear about is also essential, helping to dispel the myth that alcoholics are old, white men who can’t function. Instead we see people, who look and sound just like many members of the audience, who have battled with alcoholism.

Blackout takes you on a journey with each of the cast, from the moment they had their first drink to the lows of their addiction to recovery and the challenges that in itself presents. Each of the individuals stories are gripping, you can’t help but want to hear more from them. It is written with a mixture of self-depreciating humour, combined with some moments that are genuinely uncomfortable to listen to. It is often injected with dark comedy and numerous funny one liners. The delivery is interwoven amongst the cast and sometimes we get several minutes from one cast members and other times maybe just one or two words. This helps create a sense of unease, that we never know who we will hear from next and where the retelling will take us.

The delivery from all of the cast is so natural that by the end I was utterly invested in all of their lives and experience that I found it hard to believe that for most of them, it was not their actual story, that they had not lived it themselves.

For what sounds like a simple concept this show is expertly crafted and delivered. A masterclass in how to have the audience gripped through a combination of powerful monologues and an uncomfortable but important topic.

Blackout is on until 26th August at Summerhall- Old Lab at 16:20 – 17:20. To find out more about Blackout visit New Room Theatre’s website. 

If you like this review you might also like my review of My Left/Right Foot, Liz and The Monster In The Hall.

 

CAST
One (eight years)  |  Camille Marmié
Two (newcomer)  |  Cameron Fulton
Three (oldtimer)  |  Mark Jeary
Four (one year)  |  Miriam-Sarah Doren
Five (ten years)  |  Houda Echouafni

CREATIVE TEAM
Director  |  Paul Brotherston
Writer  |  Mark Jeary
Lighting Designer |  Simon Hayes
Sound Designer  |  Danny Krass
Dramaturg  |  Mariem Omari

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