Benet Catty Productions

Blackout - Edinburgh 2010

Aug 17, 2010

Whatsonstage ****

Edinburgh is always full of jeans-trainers-and-two-chairs productions of plays about teenage angst and the urban underclass. Not like this. Blackout is fast, compelling, powerful stuff based on a true story, lead by Tom Vernel’s astonishing central performance.

Vernel is a terrifying anti-hero, his eyes like tunnels, his legs like sticks. His descent into a hellish vortex of Nazism and violence is thrillingly shown, first in a video of him shaving his hair off, then in a sequence in which he puts on his uniform of dishonour. Hurling himself about in the Frantic Assembly style shows his real danger. The reunion with his mother brought tears to my eyes.

Aided by a fantastic music and sound score, the young cast form a tight ensemble in Neil Bettle’s visceral staging. Davey Anderson’s writing - urgent, real yet heightened - comes straight from the mould of Mark O’Rowe or Enda Walsh. But it’s Vernel’s show. “Imagine…”, the company often ask us. In his hands we don’t have to. A real wow.

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