Thursday, 22 September 2016

Blackthorn, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds - 14th September 2016 (Reviewed on behalf of North West End)

This was originally reviewed for North West End and the link can be found here

Blackthorn was developed through Furnace, a festival which celebrates new theatre from creation to production. Written by Charley Miles, it is about two children, the only ones born for a generation, who grow up, fall in love and part ways. Miles hails from North Yorkshire whereBlackthorn is set and the lighting and soundscapes, courtesy of Laura Sprake and Heather Fenoughty, reflects the idyllic village life and the surrounding nature.

Image credit: Anthony Robling

The two person play chronologically explores the changes that occur in both the characters’ lives; HER (Charlotte Bate) leaves the village and HIM (Harry Egan) stays and yet the bond they have between them still exists though strained with the impact of changes. The story focuses on the relationship with a place as much as a person and how it feels to leave or to be left.
The play also touches on childhood, adolescence, tragedy, love, relationships, loyalty, traditions and modernity and the audience is reminded how changes can have positive and negative effects. Miles writes beautifully the lives of HER and HIM and their affected journeys and links to the author’s upbringing.  
Excellent acting from both Bate and Egan who successfully portray both characters from childhood to later on in life when HER returns to the “special place” she calls her birthplace and struggles to come to terms how HIM eventually sees it.   Blackthorn is thoroughly directed by Jacqui Honess-Martin and she is supported by a talented creative team. West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Barber Studio is intimately suitable for Blackthorn to be performed. The play is approximately 90 minutes without an interval – it is felt however it could have benefited with one for pacing the delicately packed story.
It is encouraging to see local playwrights and their plays being supported by the Furnace Festival and West Yorkshire Playhouse’s new writer development programme.

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