Blackout, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
New Room Theatre in association with Showroom
Mark Jeary (writer), Paul Brotherston (director), Danny Krass (sound design), Simon Hayes (lighting design).
Camille Marmie (8 Years), Ben Clifford (Newcomer), Mark Jeary (Old Timer), Miriam sarah Doren (1 Year), Beth Kovak (6 Years), Karen Bartke (Voice Overs)
Running time

Blackout traces the different stories of five alcoholics from their first drink to the last, and the terror of facing life ever-after when their usual coping mechanism is gone.

Mark Jeary scripted Blackout from interviews with recovering alcoholics. He is one himself. Jeary, a young gay man and three women pick up mics and, as they change places within the confines of a white square laid out on the floor, they each tell their story in fragments, piecing together where they’ve been and where they are now.

It begins with fun. Alcohol unlocks something, allows them to express something, gives them confidence, feels amazing. As a throbbing background beat gets stronger the stories take on a darker tone, describing their violence, the nastiness and brutality, the meanness and the lies – all indications that the use of alcohol has become abusive and they have lost control.

Next comes the really scary bit - the blackouts. When the bloodstream gets saturated with alcohol, the part of the brain that makes long term memories shuts down. The body still goes about its business, but there will be no memory of what that business was. The five recount anecdotes of waking up in the street covered in blood; coming to and finding you’re having sex with someone you’ve never seen before and with no idea of where you are, or how you came to be there; regaining consciousness to find you’re about to hit the son you love around the head with a piano stool.

Such moments are described as ‘hitting rock bottom’ and it’s these moments that make these people stop drinking. But then there’s a huge gap – and how do you fill it? How do you cope with the boredom? How do you face all the shocks, the celebrations and the tragedies of life stone cold sober?

This is where the 12 step programme, practised at places like Castle Craig Alcohol and Drug Rehab Centre who sponsored this production, offers hope. It turns out that a combination of talking to other alcoholics and finding something outside yourself to connect with, be that God, love or just seeing the positivity in humanity, really works. As one of them puts it, "you take the good where you can" and you take one day at a time.

The five very different characters whose stories are told challenge the stereotypes of the alcoholic. They make it clear that alcoholics can be young or old, male or female, privileged or deprived, straight or gay. Each of the performers tell their harrowing tale with great conviction and the production ticks all the boxes for raising awareness and encouraging a better understanding of the condition Overall, it’s an interesting and engaging performance, offering much to mull over.

Runs 18th – 19th May 2016