Verbatim stories of alcoholism and redemption
Based on interviews with alcoholics who have discovered sobriety and, subsequently, a more fulfilling life through Alcoholics Anonymous, Blackout respectfully presents individual tales of hilarity, debauchery, horror and redemption, weaving them together as a coherent lecture. In following the individual voices from the first drink to their triumphant recoveries, Mark Jeary’s script is respectful, earnest and thoughtful, and Blackout refuses to baulk at either the excesses or the humour of their experiences.
Despite a strong cast, who bring the stories to life with energy, and a clear direction – enhanced by the clean, precise stage design – Blackout lacks dramatic tension. Since all of the lives share the same narrative – drinking’s great, then it isn’t, and Alcoholics Anonymous works – the final scenes draw out the conclusion, descending into an advert for AA, or restating the optimism of the characters.
Verbatim theatre can rely too heavily on the emotional honesty of the content and, as in this script, fail to provide enough tension. Although it is a powerful testament to the impact of sobriety on the lives of the characters, and makes a case that explains how alcoholism is not just for the familiar stereotypes, the production fails to provide any emotional engagement, giving it the atmosphere of a serious documentary.
There is clearly a value in Blackout, since it is bracingly honest, and sporadically funny. Yet this value is less within a theatrical context and more in the educational, with the facts of the matter being offered in a blunt manner.
Blackout, Tue 19–Sat 23 Apr, Tron, Glasgow, then touring.