Sunday 5 November 2017

Review The Black Eye Club

A thoughtful drama about domestic abuse engages Peter Barker with its wit in dealing with a serious subject. 

The Black Eye Club
by Phil Charles

I Will Survive

A man and a woman have a chance encounter in London. Zoe, a diamond South London gal, is a trolley dolly on the railways. Dave, by contrast, is a middle-class accountant who happens to be gay.

The Black Eye Club is nothing to do, as did cross my mind before the show, with the music of the Black Eyed Peas. But the night turned out to be a good night at the theatre, with a play which refers, more seriously, to a club nobody wants to be a part of - the victims of domestic abuse.

Dave and Zoe meet outside a woman-only refuge where Zoe is staying. Dave, with visible injuries, has fled from his abusive male partner, seeking safety. But there is no place here for a male victim until Zoe, wanting to help Dave, offers to smuggle him into her room.

Both of them face challenges, a journey into darkness but illuminated, a couple of shocks notwithstanding, by a Gloria Gaynor karaoke favourite and a witty script.

Cardiff-born writer Phil Charles is the winner of a Bread & Roses Theatre playwriting competition celebrating its third year. He's been both a homeless support worker and a writer across advertising and television, contributing scripts to daytime soap Doctors and comedy drama Shameless.

The skills gained from screenwriting are evident in this drama with its almost continual focus on Dave and Zoe seeming very televisual.. 

The story, which could be relentless and didactic, unravels in an entertainingly earthy and realistic way. The characters are not mere issue-driven cyphers, but  grounded in the real world.

Director Tessa Hart maintains the tension and the comedy, keeping it both tight and light.

Rebecca Pryle convinces as Zoe with her tart tongue and an honest heart. As the more subdued and educated Dave, Christopher Sherwood is given perhaps a more rounded character by the playwright.

Yet he's also the strop against which the playwright sharpens Zoe's genuinely funny lines. This all serves to make the resolution both real and joyful.

Cathryn Sherman is in the supporting role of  the hostel concierge and Sally Hardcastle's set is a believable small and barely furnished hostel bedroom with the lighting and sound provided by Eren Celikdemir.

The efforts of writer, director, cast and crew make this a fun evening on a dark subject and it's an amber/green light. 

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