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Blackbird.
2004 EIF Theatre Programme.


Director -
Peter Stein.
Playwright - David Harrower.
Company - EIF.
Cast - Here.
Venue Kings Theatre.
Address Leven Street.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.

Blackbird
Blackbird.
© Geraint Lewis
In recent months there have been a few Scottish court cases involving school masters being involved in under-age sexual relationships with young female pupils. Reading the news reports you tend to wonder if it was the girl who set out to seduce the teacher, or was it really a case of abuse. This is, in one sense, the heart of David Harrower's new play, an EIF commission which bravely explores the unspoken truth behind a case of paedophilia. He was initially inspired by the true story of Toby Studebaker, a 31 year old American marine who began to communicate with a 12 year old English girl on an internet chatroom. She travels to meet him in Germany, (allegedly) not admitting her age. In the circumstances, where does the guilt lie?

In a similar scenario Blackbird focuses on 56 year old Ray who was involved in an underage sexual relationship with 12 year old Una, 15 years beforehand. The action begins when Una,(the sultry, sexy Jodhi May) now 27, arrives at his Medical manufacturers office having tracked him down from a magazine article. Ray - played throughout with a quiet strength of conviction by Roger Allam - leads Una (vampishly dressed in blue leather coat, short pink skirt and high heels) into the litter-strewn staff canteen where her first word is "Shocked? ..You kept me waiting" to which he replies, "What do you want?". For the next two hours (straight through), we observe and listen to their antagonistic conversation, discussion and debate about their past 'relationship'. Ray spent 3 years in prison, changed his name and has now moved on to a new life. Una claims she has been sentenced for 15 years and has lost everything.

The dramatic pace is necessarily pedantic and slow, with long Pinteresque pauses as they slowly relate their individual stories of their brief time together. Peter Stein directs with astute precision, as the couple pace around the room like caged tigers, watching, teasing each other or silently listen, cowering in a chair. But then the anger and emotion, blending guilt and memories of past love, reaches a climax as they confront each other, confessing long lost feelings about what really happened 15 years ago.

The title Blackbird is not mentioned in the text. Perhaps it refers to a folk lore meaning. The beautiful song of the blackbird is said to be a symbol of temptations, especially sexual ones. The devil once took on the shape of a blackbird and flew into St. Benedict's face, thereby causing the saint to be troubled by an intense desire for a beautiful girl he had once seen. By the end Harrower takes no sides and offers no moral viewpoint. Who was the true victim, was it really a love affair or sexual abuse? The theatre stage, as always, is a powerful platform to debate current social and political issues. This emotionally brittle and brutally sharp play tackles the sensitive issues of a topical taboo subject bang on, with insight, intelligence and compassion.
©Vivien Devlin, 16 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
The text is published by Faber and Faber and is available from them, at the theatre during the run and at good bookshops thereafter.
Dates Runs to 24 August date at 7.30pm every day. Matinee 20 August, 2.30pm
Production Details.
Director - Peter Stein.
Set designer - Ferdinand Wögerbauer.
Costume designer - Moidele Bickel.
Composer - Arturo Annecchino.
Sound - Ferdinando Nicci.
Cast. Roger Allam and Jodhi May.
Company Website www.eif.co.uk

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