Blackout is a fast paced ‘comedy yet unexpected thriller’ with revelations accentuating vulnerability in modern society. Within sixty minutes, random strangers aim to piece together fragments of memory to understand why they are in each other’s company. The abstract notion of the space is complimented by the Vaults; each train rumble provides a horror effect to this script filled with irony and jest. Comedy is transforming with the rising popularity of the twist and Innes uses this technique to accentuate the danger of every day situations. Who does one trust?
The hour-long production questions personal responsibility towards one self, whilst reflecting current news on predatory behaviour targeting female vulnerability. Gavin J. Innes’ slow introduction exposes Jessica (Carrie Hill) scrambling for her personal belongings. As an alarm intrudes her intention, Murray (Ashley Byam) awakens revealing the plot.
Two strangers, naked, question how they arrived. As one assumes this rom-com has hit predictability, a plot-twist similar to Black Mirror propels the script into something much more sinister, repeating how brutality can manifest in different ways.
Has Jessica truly behaved unnaturally or is her speech contradicting the actions of intoxicated individuals? Innes subtly builds on this tension by persistently using a prop that mirrors the eagerness of Murray’s motive. The morally ambiguous debate around casual sex reminds one of past Channel 4 programmes, in particular reflected by the content of Jessica’s handbag.
As toy limbs fly on to the stage, the reveal has an opposite effect. The perplexing exchange loses dominance, instead it becomes questionable why either of them choose to stay. Jessica’s quizzing however persists and she raises a vital point: why is Murray not suspicious of her?
As the play swings back and forward, the two polar opposite identities begin to become unbearable. Their hooking up appears to be unimaginable, and this is Blackout’s strongest component: the conclusion. Leaving the mystery unanswered enables the script to highlight power and brutality.
Where one awakes in the morning reveals either the good or the horrific of what happened the night before, and in this case, Blackout encourages discussion surrounding safety juxtaposed with safe spaces.
Katie-Ann McDonough’s direction is at its strongest with Jessica manically grasping and piecing together snippets of her memory. Although Jessica’s hysteria and humour lacks a natural continuum, Hill’s performance surpasses expectations as she angrily navigates through the claustrophobic space.
Murray, however, spending most of the beginning in bed, drives forward frustration, so that when he finally jumps out, his prolonged release of anger loses effect when met with fits of laughter. Once both are in the midst of challenging one another, it’s difficult to fathom why they’re not running away from one another.
Byam’s self-portrayal of the good guy, is equally met with Jessica’s, and the audience’s, suspicion. When he vocalises his inner turmoil, one is finally satisfied with the initial distrust. Collectively Byam and Hill’s awkwardness propels the action into moments of comedy and heightened tension.
The concept, humour, and the twist are the strongest attributes of Blackout. Although the build of tension at times loses potential climax, the collective idea paired with Hill’s performance makes this one to watch; a graphic reminder of our vulnerable states.