Though common in film and literature, it is rare to see a play which fits the bill of psychological thriller. This is done with incredible skill by Brad Birch, Fringe first winner and recipient of the Harold Pinter Commission. Tense, gripping and darkly-comic,
Intelligent, gripping writing
The play opens with a couple, Rebecca and Paul, played respectively by Hasan Dixon and Katie Elin-Salt. They are staying in a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere, attempting to salvage their relationship. Though the tension should build from the words and actions of the couple, it doesn’t happen here. They neither convey their relationship nor the breakdowns which led them to this cabin effectively, and it is only with the electrifying entrance of Sally Messham playing Helen, an ex-girlfriend of Paul’s, that the characters begin to generate a gripping tension.
As the actors warm up and the plot thickens, we understand the various nuances in Paul and Rebecca’s relationship. We are privy to Paul’s mental instability as a result of this high-pressure environment, which is capably and effectively portrayed by Dixon. The actors also make incredible use of the space under the direction of James Grieve. Performing in the round, utilising all three entrances and a set of stairs, the audience are wholly involved and immersed in the gripping storyline.
The eerie, on-edge atmosphere created by lighting and sound designers Peter Small and Dominic Kennedy is stirring and hair-raising. Using haze effects, a plethora of LEDs and jarring sounds, they effectively enhance the effect of the story on the audience. Though this is done with incredible skill and artistry, at points it feels as though the actors rely on the effects as opposed to the writing to carry them through.
Black Mountain is a piece of intelligent, gripping writing. It is for the most part well performed and is skilfully directed. It has been designed in such a way that moments of tension are enhanced and scene changes are used efficiently to further the effect of the performance. Though the actors took a while to warm up and, at points, too much emphasis is put on the lighting and sound, with this play Brad Birch has put forward a story which hardly ever exists on stage.