How can you be sure of who you are, when you can’t remember what you’ve done? Blackout brings those darker moments to light.
From the shared experience of the blackout, Blackout from New Room Theatre explores the dark, and unseen world of alcoholism. Told entirely through verbatim, repeated words, the experiences of five individuals are brought together in one unbroken hour. There are striking differences, and yet sometimes surprising similarities between their accounts.
The structure moves in an arc, taking us on a journey from the beginnings of their drinking, to their lives now, in recovery. Whilst some verbatim can become samey and on one level, Blackout excels in leading an emotional course. It remains utterly engrossing in the emotional patchwork of tales it weaves. In an emotional and a heart-wrenching twist, not all of the individuals will make it through the full arc.
utterly engrossing in the emotional patchwork of tales it weaves.
The aforementioned similarities are highlighted through some collective gang-vocal style acknowledgement, and their stories and accounts intertwine but remain without direct cross-over. They are connected be their shared experience, and yet their delivery stands alone as they do, in a way that highlights the isolation of the circumstances they found themselves in.
New Room Theatre have taken care to address myths that surround alcoholism and distance us from it. Myths such as “But she has such a nice family!” and “he doesn’t seem like the type to be an alcoholic” in their lines of questioning, and choice of individuals to feature, who span a range of age, gender, religion and race demographics.
New Room Theatre have also taken pains not to shy away from the good as well as the bad. Yes, there are moments of humour! The individuals talk about the good times of enjoying alcohol before it took control, then plunging to the innermost depths of their worst moments and fears. There is an indistinct line between the comic drunk and the tragic alcoholic, and it is drawn by the audience’s reaction as well as the individuals themselves. Pissing yourself on a hook up and trying to dry your pants in the microwave; still funny. Waking up with a stranger, sore, and with no idea how you got there; devastating.
Subtle lighting changes through the duration allow for changes in mood to be reflected, but never highlighted in too obvious a way. Each individual is a light in the darkness that surrounds. It is a relief to see light return after the darkest of scenes.
Most striking about this is the dissociation they feel, from their friends, families and from themselves. Several of them find they cannot identify themselves even when they look in the mirror. A shocking revelatory truth.
The blackouts become a refuge when each individual is scared of who they have become, and yet when they come around to lucidity, each one has driven them further from who and where they want to be. This shared experience that they can never articulate to anyone until they find recovery, makes their time, seemingly alone in the darkness even crueller, trapped in a seemingly endless vicious cycle of dark and barely-light when there are so many others who feel the same way.
But there is hope at the end of it, Blackout does not leave us in the dark. It is ultimately a collection of stories of rediscovery, of facing and rebuilding an identity on the other side of the darkness.