Blackwood is a piece that four boys from St Albans School devised and directed for their A-Level drama assessment, and after a warm reception there have brought to the Fringe.
The premise is simple; two writers are struggling to write a blockbuster hit, and end up devising a character who springs to life in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.
What follows is a ridiculous and farcical piece of theatre, full of bizarre twists and turns, with hysterical moments and some magnificent ideas. All of the performances are strong, but Cameron Epstein in the role of Mr Blackwood is spectacular. He captures the mania and bizarre likeability of the villain, and it’s his characterisation that gives life to the style of the piece.
Alex Campbell, who designs and directs, has a good grasp on the 1930s style that the piece takes, interspersing and sometimes mimicking the onstage action with silent-movie style shot footage projected on the back wall. It isn’t always perfectly timed, but that adds to the rough and raw feel of the piece. It’s the ideas behind the play that make it so special; the audience can really get a sense of what the company are trying to do, and although it doesn’t always work on the night, the intentions are so good that mistakes are barely noticeable. These are students performing because they love it, and their enthusiasm creates an electric atmosphere.
What the show does lack is a touch of editing from a more experienced practitioner or writer. There is far too much swearing, which just doesn’t match with the style, and makes what could be a very slick production feel more immature and amateur. Aside from that, this is an enjoyable piece of theatre, with very strong potential.