Sunday, November 06, 2016

Blackout: a striking and sophisticated look at youth offending through theatre and testimony

Davey Anderson’s Blackout tells the story of one young man’s pressures and choices. James comes round in a cell with a foggy memory of what has led him to this situation. Over thirty or so minutes the five actors reveal enough of the causes and consequences of James’ actions to allow the audience to piece together his history and start to wonder about his future.

The production lives up to its ambition with fight scenes that are very physical, choreography at a level you’d expect in much larger productions, good use of audio effects and scenes using slowed up action more akin to a TV drama than a stage show.

The young ensemble cast are recent graduates. Séan Basil Crawford takes a lead as the skin-headed James, supported by Adele Gribbon, Conor Hinds, Catriona McFeely and Michael Patrick.

The cast and creative team spent time listening to the young residents in Hydebank Wood College as well as the women prisoners on the same site. In the Q&A that follows every show, some current and former inmates relate to the drug and alcohol induced rage in the fictional story and explain how a single incident abruptly changed the direction of each of their young lives.

Their testimony picks up the loose threads of the end of the performance and weaves them back into real life. Through the questions asked on Saturday evening we heard about the loss of family and freedom, coping strategies within custody as well as the value of education within Hydebank and the value of the support available to prepare inmates for life on the outside upon release.

Blackout is a striking and sophisticated production by the creative learning team led by Philip Crawford at the Lyric Theatre. It is now embarking on its second tour of schools across Northern Ireland. It’s an engaging use of theatre combined with actuality to put young and older audiences into other people’s shoes and ask what we would do in the same circumstances.

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