AFTER ITS critically acclaimed production of Patricia Burke Brogan’s Eclipsed last year, Mephisto Theatre Company returns to the Town Hall Theatre with one of the most controversial plays of the last decade – Blackbird, by Scottish playwright David Harrower.
Winner of the Galway County Council and Galway Theatre Festival Touring Award 2013, Blackbird stars Emma O’Grady and Ian Watt, and is directed by Mark Westbrook.
The play provides an unsettling, yet powerful look at the aftermath of a relationship between an adult man, Ray, and a young girl, Una, who was only 12 at the time of their involvement.
Now Una has shown up at Ray’s place of work. He has not seen her in 15 years and has no desire to go back over the past. He has a job, a partner, a life. But Una is unable to move on with her life - and that's why she's here. She has tracked him down and she will not let him get away again. She is not a little girl any more.
Described as “hypnotic” by Irish Theatre Magazine, Mephisto’s production of Blackbird is a masterclass in ambiguity and suspense, forcing viewers out of their comfort zone and making them look again at things they thought were black and white. As well as playing the Town Hall, the show will also go to Portumna and Inis Óirr.
Speaking ahead of Blackbird’s Town Hall appearance, Emma O’Grady declared:
“I am delighted to be working with Ian Watt and Mark Westbrook. Both Ian and Mark are experienced theatre practitioners based in Glasgow. They work together at Mark Westbrook's school, Acting Coach Scotland, which provides incredibly high levels of professional training for actors. Mark's directing technique allows actors to really connect with each other and provides first class theatre for audiences.
“The play addresses the issue of paedophilia but it is also the story of a relationship. When you enter the theatre, before you see the play, that issue is black and white but what David Harrower does he makes the issue grey and that is the power of the play. It is very uncomfortable to have yourself thinking of the other side of the story. It’s not that Harrower justifies Ray in any way but he presents another side to its subject of abuse.”
O’Grady expands on the play’s content.
“It’s about a lot more than just paedophilia. It starts with Una and Ray meeting in a room at his workplace and they haven’t seen each other for 15 years, she is now 27 and he is nearly 60. When they were in a relationship he was nearly 40 and she was just 12.
“Una has come to find Ray, who has served a prison sentence because of his involvement with her. She is strong-willed, she has gone there with a bit of fight in her but she doesn’t really know what it is she wants from Ray. It’s up to the audience to decide whether someone can change, and your opinion of Ray at the end decides that.
“It’s Una’s point of view that brings the play into grey areas; at the time of the relationship she didn’t know she was abused, she was in love with Ray and as far as she is concerned the worst thing he did was abandon her. It’s very uncomfortable to watch yet it’s also really engaging and so well written, the dialogue is like a real conversation, it doesn’t feel stagey at all.”
So how did Mephisto come into contact with the Glasgow based actor and director, Ian Watt and Mark Westbrook?
“I first came across Mark through reading his blog Acting Coach Scotland. Ian also teaches in the same school as Mark. The blog really struck a chord with us. Then we did Grenades in Glasgow Mark came to see the show a couple of times. We met up with him and knew we really wanted to work with him so I went over there last year for a week to work with him and at the end of that we chose Blackbird to do.”
Blackbird is at the Town Hall, Galway, on Thursday June 5; the Town Hall, Portumna, Sunday June 8; and Áras Eanna, Inis Óirr, Saturday June 14. All performances are at 8pm.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie Mark Westbrook will also be doing a four-hour actors workshop in Galway on Friday June 6. For information email [email protected].