Blackthorn by Charley Miles
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 8th Aug 2018
  • |
  • ★★★★

Home is a powerful concept. It rejuvenates you but it can also demand; it gives you a solid base from which to move forward as well as the chains that hold you back. So what do you do if your home isn't just a place but also a person?

Simple, beautiful and wonderful.

In the village of Blackthorn, two children are born two years apart; Her - precocious, bright and curious - and Him - clumsy and bashful but brave and strong. The only two children for a generation, their bond is forged strong in youth but tested by time, geography and circumstance.

When all you have to tell your tale is a girl and a boy, they’d better be good. Luckily, Blackthorn gets the girl and boy it deserves in Charlotte Bate and Harry Egan. Their chemistry is superb, so much so that it feels natural they’d have known each other all their lives. As Her, Bate’s wonderfully expressive face is a direct line to her emotions - happiness, sadness and conflict writ large and powerful for the audience. In the role of a stoical Yorkshireman, Egan has less outward emotional range to play with but he balances this with a rich internal life which, when glimpsed through a crack in his calm exterior, is all the more powerful for its brevity.

As they grow and live and lose, the one constant for each is their feelings for the other, but this is no Fringe Emmerdale. Him and Her are more than just people - they seem to represent the choices all rural youths face. One attempts to shake the weight of expectations by leaving to seek their fortune; the other remains responsibly but resentfully at home, the physical embodiment of the first’s guilt at abandoning their community.

In Blackthorn, Charley Miles has produced a sad, sweet story about the things we can’t let go, the things we leave behind, and the things that won’t let us go. Simple, beautiful and wonderful.

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The Blurb

'What you think’s a completely different plant on surface – it’s all from the same roots.' The only two children born in a North Yorkshire village for a generation cannot imagine ever being apart, but as their lives shift, so too do the ties that bind them. Charley Miles’ outstanding debut play Blackthorn explores the changes and choices that pull us from the places and people we love. Blackthorn was a finalist for the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn prize in 2017 and is presented as an InSite and Leeds Playhouse co-production.