Night of the Blackbird

Borders theatre company Firebrand begins its three-night run of Blackbird, David Harrower’s study of a taboo-breaking sexual obsession, tonight.

The Thursday to Saturday shows, starting at 7.30pm at the Heart of Hawick, will then tour to Heriot-Watt/Borders College, Galashiels, and Summerhall, Edinburgh.

The controversial one-act, 90-minute play by the Scottish playwright depicts a young woman, Una, meeting a middle-aged man, her old teacher Ray, 15 years after they had a sexual relationship when she was 12.

Firebrand’s Richard Baron said: “It’s thrilling, moving, shocking and thought-provoking: all the ingredients of good theatre.”

The production features actors Greg Wagland and Romana Abercromby, and also Kelso teenager Esme Biggar making her professional stage debut.

Esme has been doing drama workshops with the Helen O’Grady Drama Academy since she was six and joined Borders Youth Theatre aged 10, playing roles ranging from the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, to Tobias Ragg in Sweeney Todd, and even a zombie in an improvised production called It Doesn’t Have to be Zombies.

Last year, she joined the Shakespeare at Traquair company, performing as the Herald in King Lear and toured in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Romana will be known to Borders audiences for her role in Dogstar’s The Baroness, which toured to Hawick last autumn, where she played the young romantic interest.

But those who caught the National Theatre of Scotland’s 2012 production of The Guid Sisters, will have seen her transformed into a 97-year-old wheelchair-bound grandmother in a remarkably hilarious and arduous physical performance.

Romana explains: “I’m usually told I look young for my age and even played a 12-year-old not so long ago, so I was amazed to be cast as the ancient Olivine.

“But the director had decided that he wanted the character to be quite accident prone and at times literally dragged around the stage, and so the actor needed to be very fit and flexible.

“It was actually great fun, apart from a few bruises, but obviously meant spending ages in applying the make-up every night.”

Richard Baron said he’s delighted with his cast and the chance to direct one of the most powerful and daring plays of the last decade.

“It’s a huge challenge for the actors, both technically and emotionally,” he said.

“But Blackbird, like David Mamet’s Oleanna, is a significant and important play that confronts one of the most current and problematic concerns in our society head-on.

To celebrate Firebrand, theatre company’s third anniversary, Hawick audiences will be offered a free glass of wine, beer or soft drink in the ticket price, while those (over-18s) who attend the performance at The Space - Heriot Watt/Borders College, Galashiels, will also receive a free beer, courtesy of Firebrand’s long-term sponsor, the Scottish Borders Brewery.

Blackbird plays at Heart of Hawick from Thursday to Saturday, February 20-22. Contact the box office on 01450 360688 for tickets and info.

Later, Blackbird goes on tour to The Space – Heriot Watt/Borders College, Galashiels on Monday, February 24, (tickets on the door) and Summerhall, Edinburgh, Wednesday, February 26 to Saturday March 1 (0845 8743000).