I’ll begin by noting that this particular viewing was unfortunately tarnished by a very inconsiderate audience, where both latecomers and six mid-show phone calls bombarded the five actors with distractions. Yet even in the face of such rudeness, the performers adapted well to this, with actress Houda Echouafni even parrying one ringtone with a well-timed pun on ‘shamefulness’. Given the particular constraints made on the cast, they all deserve commendation for their perseverance.
Blackout is a fast-paced collage of flashbacks that offers time for reflection on various facets of alcoholism.
Blackout comes with fair warning in its subject matter, where the title alone is enough preparation for an hour of material that is both amusing and devastating. Mark Jeary’s show is intercut with audio interviews from previous alcoholics that are addressed by the five on stage in their own unique fashion, where each actor regales the consequences of perpetuating an unhappy lifestyle through real accounts from alcoholics.
Fast-paced collages of flashbacks offer time for reflection on various facets of alcoholism, ranging from the mildly amusing antics of microwaving a soiled pair of trousers, to the tragedies of date-rape and domestic violence. In sixty minutes, the five actors are evenly distributed to give scope to different personalities and different understandings of an alcoholic who, as we know, is not simply the stereotypical old man cuddling a bottle of Buckfast, but comes in many shapes and sizes, and burdened by various demons.
Certainly, this production does not exclude the darker side of alcoholism and goes as far to demonstrate that the real struggle begins once you put down the bottle, where the challenge of recovery and potential relapse abound with genuine fears of changing oneself and the problems of sunk costs. It exposes honest uncertainties in Alcoholics Anonymous’ appeal to a higher power, where the cast all firmly agree that the road to recovery is not predicated upon the belief in a God, but in accepting responsibility for one's own life.
By the end, we are offered no full conclusion; the show is not wrapped up in a neat little bow, and lots of questions remain unanswered. But in the wake of Blackout’s entrenched inner-conflicts, one can come to expect there is no easy solution to the problems of alcoholism. It moves forward by assuring us that there is no ‘end’ to addiction, but there are methods of channelling it into better outlets; that having fun without alcohol is possible; and perhaps most important of all, you cannot change your nature, but you can change your perception of the world around you in how you react to it.