May 30 2014 | By More

★★★★☆   Devastating accuracy

Assembly Roxy
Thursday 29 – Saturday 31 May 2014
Review by Susan Lowes

The set is stark and simple for the opening of Blackout, from Edinburgh-based New Room Theatre showing at the Assembly Roxy until Saturday.

The Carpenters’ Top of the World is playing and the cast sit facing away from the audience. This simplicity creates a raw, honest atmosphere and an air of uncertain anticipation – that explodes with powerful chaos as the characters are introduced.

Miriam Sarah Doren, Mark Jeary, Beth Kovarik, Camille Marmie and Ben Clifford in Blackout from New Room Theatre Photo © Belle Jones

Miriam Sarah Doren, Mark Jeary, Beth Kovarik, Camille Marmie and Ben Clifford. Photo © Belle Jones

Blackout is a play about alcoholism, about five people and their journey from developing addiction to recovery. Conceived and written by Mark Jeary it is, in part, a response to his own battle with alcoholism. But it is also much more than that.

For a start, it contains verbatim accounts taken from interviews with other recovering alcoholics. Jeary skilfully weaves these stories together into a compelling piece that delves firstly into common conceptions of alcoholism and then rapidly shows how outdated these notions are in modern society.

He shows how alcoholism affects people from all walks of life regardless of their social background and accentuates the often forgotten role of gender in alcoholism through his female cast majority.

Co-directed by Josh Payne and Belle Jones, the atmosphere is gripping. The dialogue is compelling in itself, but accompanied by physical drama and stressed movements its impact is intensified. Particular moments of thought-provoking monologue are accentuated by the rest of the cast’s imitation of the speaker’s mannerisms.

The cast, which includes Jeary himself, deliver convincing performances. While there are a few scattered, tentative moments at the opening, these dispel as the momentum builds and the actors settle in to their characters.

Miriam-Sarah Doren, a Glasgow based performer playing Four, is particularly mesmerising. Four begins her story with an exaggerated bravado which quickly descends into tragedy. Her sadness and vulnerability is shown not only through her words but through Doren’s expressive eyes, and echoed through every movement she makes.

“genuine laughter and camaraderie”

Camille Marmie as One and Ben Clifford as Two also deliver absorbing performances, bringing a much-needed element of humour to the play. They describe their characters’ experiences in a comical and unsentimental way that creates laughter. This is perfectly countered, however, by the devastation that their body language portrays when they’re not speaking or taking centre stage.

The tone of the piece changes as the characters progress through their journey. The cast succeed in lifting the atmosphere replacing it with genuine laughter and camaraderie; a parallel to their characters’ experiences of recovery. There are touching and heart-warming performances from both Marmie and Beth Kovarik as Five as they surrender to their own self-awareness, and affirm their commitment to love and a better life, that puts them at the top of their worlds.

The production leaves a feeling of hope: hope for a better life; hope that alcoholism does not inevitably mean a shorter or a wasted life; and hope that people’s experiences can create real strength.

Every day people are drawing from their experiences, re-evaluating what is important and realising how lucky they are. New Room Theatre have a reputation for tackling strong, socially aware topics and this message is not one they are going to let you forget.

Running time 65 minutes (no interval)
Thurs 29 – Sat 31 May 2014
Evenings 8pm
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh EH8 9SU
Information at:

Blackout tours to:
Cottiers Theatre, 93-95 Hyndland St, Glasgow, G11 5PU
Tue 10 June 2014. 7.30pm.


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Comments (2)

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  1. Jackie Baillie says:

    This was a fantastic play which betrayed alcoholism on true facts of other alcoholics the actors where so convincing.

    I myself thought it was an excellent way to get a message to people from all walks of life who do not know anything about AA and other groups that are self help like NA and CA. Narcotics Anonymous helping people on drugs and CA for those who are addicted to Cocaine although they help anyone who is addict.

    I think it would be good idea eventually to draw this in if it was going out to agencies and Schools which would be fantastic way to get the message of addiction as a whole. Good on Mark Leary for taking on such a worthwhile cause and making it also enjoyable and hopeful!!! We all loved it and wish you well

  2. David Williams says:

    I found it moving, convincing funny and unsentimental. Better yet it was ultimately optimistic and hopeful.