Saturday, 30 July 2011

Blackwood - A Tale of Two Writers

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This evening I had the pleasure of being in the company of young brilliance. As I walked through St Albans town centre to a venue I have never been to before, the evening sun was beaming brightly and there was an air of anticipation as I was heading towards an evening of entertainment courtesy of Mr Blackwood.

Blackwood is a play devised by four students from St Albans school for their A-level drama exam. The story focuses on two writers, Frank and Alf, as they struggle to break into the New York film scene.

The play was sent in the 1930s and upon entering the auditorium one was immersed in the music and feel of 1930s New York. The stage was simply laid out with just the one location but the use of the staging was imaginatively thought through.

The cast comprised of three characters; Alf & Frank, the two struggling writers and Mr Blackwood - their dark, Dickensian creation. These parts were convincingly portrayed by Freddie Sawyer and Johnny Bennett as Alf and Frank and Cameron Epstein as the title character Mr Blackwood. All three performances were mesmerising and exemplary though it seems that young Mr Epstein was having the most fun with his colourful portrayal of a Victorian psychopath. This was a mixture of Bill Sykes and Russell Brand blended together with an East End Bohemian dandy!

As impressive as the story and performances, were the production values. Alex Campbell did an amazing job directing and designing this play, with clever use of music, lighting and video. The way the video screen interacted with the performance was truly imaginative and original.

All in all, this was a fantastic use of theatre, combining passionate performances with first rate storytelling. I am normally one of the first to spot a plot twist but I didn't anticipate the twist in this tale until moments before it occurred. Full marks to the team for pulling that off.

This is what happens when young people's talents are encouraged and supported. The four young men involved in this production are fine ambassadors of both their age group and their city - well done lads!

Blackwood is on from the 5th - 13th August at Zoo Southside, Nicholson Street, Edinburgh. For more information go to www.blackwoodshow.co.uk

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