Davey Anderson has never shied away from writing raw theatre, the kind that takes the audience by the throat and throttles it into submission.
Blackout isn’t a new play by any stretch; it was first performed in 2008 at the National Theatre, but director Warren S Cathrine has pared it down from a multi-actor format to a soliloquy, which adds another dimension to it. Is the situation of 15-year-old James, who awakens alone in a secure care unit with no idea of how he got there, as straightforward as it seems? Or is he trapped in some nightmare in which the voices of those in his life haunt him? As we see this young man’s thought processes slip from wide-eyed innocence to neo-Fascism, We never really know the answer to that.
Luke McCulloch is outstanding as James, the product of a broken life backdropped by familial violence, bereavement, and an addiction to violent video games. The snarling Glaswegian thug that James descends into very quickly is no reflection of the well-spoken and articulate – English – actor who portrays him. McCulloch has gotten under the skin of James, and of the person Anderson based him on, 17-year-old Peter, whom McCulloch met while researching the character.
Blackout is uncompromising and frank. It makes no excuses for James’ behaviour, nor does it judge – that’s left up to the audience. Norwich-based Second Side, who brought this production to the city’s Garage theatre, claims that it produces theatre by young people for young people; however, there’s no earthly reason why Blackout shouldn’t be enjoyed by adults too. Exceptional work.