As the Playhouse’s Tartuffe enjoyed an enthusiastic revival and began a tour last week, so this week sees Laurence Wilson’s 2009 work Blackberry Trout Face do the same. Commissioned by community theatre company 20 Stories High in association with the Everyman and Playhouse, it filled the Unity and created a buzz the likes of which you rarely (if ever?) see there.
Wilson’s work has always been strong, and at its best, unforgettable. Blackberry Trout Face is certainly among his best. The story of a trio of siblings abandoned by their heroin addicted mother, it combines kitchen sink drama with a tenderness and closeness that leaves the audience’s collective heart ready to burst, moved to tears one minute, choked up with joy the next.
The writing is sublime, swerving to avoid cliche or cynical manipulation; the script Bleasdale or Russell-esque storytelling at its finest, slowly giving up its secrets. But it’s the three performances from David Lyons, Nicola Bentley and Leon Tagoe as abandoned teenagers Jakey, Kerrie, and Cameron that make it all come together so beautifully. They are simply captivating in their roles: Jakey, the eldest, full of bravado masking his fears; Kerrie, the de facto matriarch with dreams of becoming an engineer; and young Cameron, emotionally stunted by his troubled home life.
Although it was commissioned with young audiences in mind, that shouldn’t intimidate anyone from checking out this wonderful production. Despite the title, which sounds like it could be some kind of impenetrable yoof slang, this show isn’t about trying to be down with the kids, it is just a genuinely good story that happens to be about young people.
A first class piece of theatre.
There’s one more chance to catch this run at the Unity tomorrow, before it begins a schools tour (including some public performances) and national dates.