Bradán Players present ‘Blackbird’ by David Harrower

Setting

The Present

Synopsis

A young woman is searching for a man she knew many years ago. She comes to his place of work and confronts him about past events. A tense, intriguing and explosive exposé of their lives ensues.

Cast

Una Michelle Reade
Ray George Hogan
Girl Catherine Joyce

Crew

Director Reidin Dunne
Lighting Tom Kennedy
Sound Colette Kinsella
Stage Manager Claire Reilly
Set and Sound Design Reidin Dunne
Crew Shane McGuinness

About The Group

Bradán Players are based in North Kildare and West Dublin but draw participants from a variety of places.
They have appeared regularly on the One Act circuit, having won on four occasions and also on the full length circuit, most recently in 2014 with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe ?”

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

At the outset of his adjudication, Geoff O’Keeffe said ‘Blackbird’ won the Laurence Olivier Award for best new play in 2007, and it propelled author David Harrower to the international stage. The play is “an emotional rollercoaster” and is “unsettling” and “disturbing”. The play “poses many questions” about such issues as guilt and desire, and answers aren’t easily found in this “powerful” and “ambiguous” work.

The two main characters are “haunted” by a past shared experience which they have both “romanticised as a love affair”. Among the challenges presented to the director is to “skilfully negotiate the rhythms of the play”. Silence and stillness are important in addition to the way words are delivered as the characters go through a “spectrum of emotions”. The “physicality” of the roles must be realised in addition to the vocal delivery, in a production that should “provoke and surprise us”.

Looking at the setting, the adjudicator said despite the “untidiness”, there was “something quite clinical and anonymous about it”. It responded very well to the needs of the play and there was “great attention to detail” with good spaces for the actors. The “squalid” nature of the set showed “the detritus of people’s lives” and, overall, it was a “strong presentation”.

In terms of the lighting, the planned blackout was praised which also gave us “one of the best pieces of sound design” – the deep breathing of Una which “spoke volumes” to the audience. The opening piece of music was “haunting” – it also bookended the play – and was “well chosen”. The way Una’s hair was braided looked like a “conscious design decision” to make her look younger and was highlighted favourably.

The adjudicator said the director, Reidin Dunne, was well served by the two main characters who “worked very well together”. The opening was powerful as Ray backed away from Una and “the silence communicated so much to us”. According to the adjudicator, there was a superb moment when Una put this question to Ray, “how many 12-year-olds have you slept with?’ – and the “prolonged silence” which followed was “held so well”.

The moment when Una unleashed a “guttural roar” – which came from the pit of her stomach – was described as “amazing” and “extraordinary”. The “visceral energy” involved in the destruction of the room (in Ray’s place of work) was needed to move the play forward.
The sexual encounter between the two main characters was “really well handled” and was “very brave and committed” work from the actors. And the entrance of the girl into the room was another “extraordinary moment”.

While there were “a lot of powerful things happening”, the adjudicator felt there were a couple of aspects the group could consider. In his opinion, projection “was an issue at times” and it was “quite difficult” for the audience to capture every word. Also, in Una’s monologue recalling her past experience with Ray, the adjudicator felt it was “too even” and needed “shifts of gear” and to be broken into sections in order to find the required nuances.

Mr O’Keeffe felt the two actors found the necessary “anger and pain so well” but in this controversial play, there is a suggestion of a love affair, and this needed to “come out a little more”.

Turning to the acting performances, Michelle Reade played Una, “the abused girl looking for answers”. She delivered a performance of intensity which portrayed “the pain and suffering” of this character. Her performance was “so committed and so thorough”, said the adjudicator. Ray was played by George Hogan, who had “such a strong stage presence” and he also brought “great intensity to this characterisation”. Catherine Joyce played ‘the girl’, the daughter of Ray’s partner. She “created such an impact” with her arrival and “did really well”.

Overall, Mr O’Keeffe said Bradán Players produced “a very well conceived setting” that was “suitably full of metaphorical dirt”. There was strength and power in this production and while there were caveats in relation to projection and the exploration of the love affair aspect, the ‘Blackbird’ did indeed “sing” and “at times it was bittersweet”.