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Black Out, Simulacra Studios

Martin Malcolm, Dan Horrigan, Nathan Cross
Directed by Marta Noguera-Cuevas

★★★

Pros: A tremendous performance venue with fantastic atmosphere.

Cons: The production’s point of interest is that the three plays all supposedly take place on the same night. There is little to connect them, however, so the idea is a bit hit and miss.

Our Verdict: An interesting hour of entertainment with some compelling performances.


Courtesy of Fox Trotter Theatre

Used mainly as a photography studio, the characterful Simulacra Studios  is snuggled under a railway arch. Every so often during the performance a train would rumble overhead, linking the three plays together with the subtle suggestion that while everyone hears the same city noises, one can never be sure about what’s really going on behind closed doors. Directed by Marta Noguera-Cuevas, Fox Trotter Theatre Company’s Black Out is a compilation of three short plays, which are woven together for this new production and supposedly take place on the same London night. The sentiment is creative and holds definite potential. However, there was little connecting the plays to a convincing extent. True, they each explored romantic, nostalgic and familial themes, but such emotions are universal and there was too much difference between the plays to create real fluidity in the production as a whole. While the format of the production left much to be desired, the individual plays are themselves commendable.

Of the three, it was Martin Malcom’s play Ink, the story of a young man getting a ‘prison ink’ tattoo in order to impress an unimpressable male friend, which crept under the skin, as it were. Malcom manipulates the emotions of the audience with enticing verbal dexterity, and I found myself growing impatient during the segments of the other plays, wanting to see more of the scene taking place downstage. Ink is brimming with a strange, gritty tenderness that draws your attention right in and forces you to emotionally invest on the spot. The childlike naiveté of the central character, bubbling with eagerness to please, was both endearing and heartbreaking, and the character couldn’t have been more wonderfully portrayed (despite a nasty throat infection!)

While the monologue style of The Voice that Bleeds In was perhaps less engaging than Ink’s conversational tone, Dan Horrigan’s play is a small masterpiece in its own right. Depicting the separate counselling sessions of a struggling married couple, the two characters address the audience and open up with their deepest secrets, including the husband’s addiction to prostitutes. Such insight causes the perfect amount of discomfort in the audience, and the two monologues are well balanced – so much so that at moments, I found myself questioning whether they could hear each other after all.

Nathan Cross’s When We Two Parted is devastatingly mysterious, providing an interesting contrast to the well-conveyed transparency of its fellow plays. A young woman is sent on an “assignment” to kill an old man who, it may quickly be deduced, is her father. In Black Out, we were left in the dark as to whether the assassination ever takes place. It was this mystery, I think, which had me feeling slightly disheartened leaving the charming Simulacra Studios.

The production is ambitious, weaving three very different plays together with the cast members on stage for the entre hour of performance time and using spotlights to highlight each story as it unfolded. What was restricting the end of the production was that nothing happened; there was no conclusion, no moment of climactic conflict and thus no resolution. The plays embedded within Black Out may well stand more effectively on their own. However, despite the questionable formatting, the cast of the Fox Trotter Theatre do justice to the three writers and the emotional depths of their work.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Black Out runs at the Simulacra Studios 20th and 21st of June at 7:30pm
Box office: 020 7733 1979 or book online at www.simulacrastudio.com

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