Review: Blackbird by Theatre Inconnu

Blackbird is a duet danced with passion and remorse, with love and indifference.

Graham McDonald and Jess Amy Shead star in Theatre Inconnu's production of Blackbird.

Theatre Inconnu presents an agonizing tale of love and loss in its production of Blackbird by David Harrower.

This Olivier award-winning play tells the story of 27-year-old Una, who tracks down Ray, a former lover, after seeing his photo in a glossy trade magazine. The thing is, Ray is a convicted pedophile, having served a sizeable prison sentence for their relationship, which happened when Una was only 12.

Una shows up at Ray’s work, where he now goes by Peter, and the two have their first conversation in 15 years. Needless to say, Una is looking for answers and Ray is looking to get her in and out of his office lunchroom without drawing any unwanted attention his way.

The result is an 85-minute confrontation, at times angry and at times tender, between two people who are convinced they had an honest, pure love, no matter how perverse a label society would place on their relationship. These characters and their experiences are as, if not more, relatable than most romantic comedies these days — not that this one is especially funny.

Directed by Graham McDonald, Blackbird is open-minded and insightful. Each character is given the opportunity to say what they truly feel, without feeling the need to censor themselves. It allows the audience to be a fly on the wall during the kind of conversation a jury might be privy to, but this time, they aren’t asked to pass judgment.

Una is performed with antagonistic vulnerability by Jess Amy Shead. Shead has the ability to portray both sides of this victim taking her power back — at times timid and at times tenacious — bringing her former lover to his knees.

Shead also seemed unfazed by the opening night recasting of Ray, which will be played by McDonald for the rest of the run. (Ted Phythian, who was cast as Ray had to drop out suddenly due to unforeseen circumstances).

Although McDonald isn’t the 50-something man the script calls for, he is able to conjure up a bleary-eyed, worn out ex-con with less than 24 hours notice. He’s also able to invoke a believable, and meaningful, connection with his co-star.

Although they never leave the lunchroom, McDonald manages to create enough action and tension to keep the audience entertained while allowing the characters the privacy to get some things off their chests and into the open.

Blackbird is a duet danced with passion and remorse, with love and indifference.

Check it out at Theatre Inconnu until Oct. 20. Tickets at ticketrocket.org or by phone at 250-590-6291.  M

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