Theatre review: Blackout at the Hope Theatre

The cast of Blackout at the Hope Theatre

The cast of Blackout at the Hope Theatre - Credit: Archant

Vignettes of drunken debauchery miss deeper issues, says David Winskill.

The irony of staging a play about alcoholism in a tiny theatre above a pub noted for its Rock n Roll excesses in the 70s, wasn’t lost on me as I sat notebook in one hand, complimentary beverage in the other.

The Hope has the intimacy of the confessional and is thus a cracking venue for playwright and actor Mark Jeary’s work about self abuse and redemption. Several interrupted monologues, collected from real people make up his verbatim approach to this raw, in-your-face cautionary piece.

Most of the stories are pretty harrowing, involving every kind of bodily fluid imaginable. Self respect and self control are in short supply, heroic self loathing and spectacularly chaotic lifestyles abound.

Initially tales, like taking a piss on Edinburgh’s Scott Monument elicited bawdy, knowing laughter. But the sheer volume and intensity of stories soon gave rise to embarrassed silence.

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Each narrative starts with the first drink, the loosened tongue, self confidence and inevitable vomit splattered hangover. Then the realisation there’s a problem and tortured fight to get dry.

A man in recovery himself, Jeary brings bravery and insight to a world where the fun, macho aspects of our drinking culture are celebrated. The shocking impact on individuals, families, careers, society and the NHS barely aknowledged.

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What he doesn’t bring is much insight into what marks the difference between those who can control their relationship with drink and those who can’t.

For a tantalising moment half way into this hour-long drama, I thought he was going to lead us into another level of understanding when the terrific Sarah Barron says ”I saw drink as the problem – I didn’t see me as the problem.” Sadly this undeveloped strand means the play remains a series of drunks telling stories of Blackout episodes to other drunks.

The terrific cast deliver excellent naturalistic performances, but clearly struggle with some of the mysterious mime/choreography and furniture shifting that punctuate scenes.

While Geary can write and clearly has passion, this well-worn one dimensional path misses the chance to ask deeper questions.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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