Blackout, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Laura Kressly

Pissing from tall buildings, pulling strangers, waking up somewhere you don’t remember – these are the hallmarks of an absolutely banging night out for some people. But when outrageous behaviour at the weekends starts creeping into the week, then every day, this is a problem.

Constructed from interviews with recovering alcoholics, Blackout doesn’t shy away from the funny anecdotes many of us have from booze-fuelled benders. But its power lies in showing how easy it can be to slide from drunken nights out into addiction for those who are emotionally or psychologically vulnerable. The escape from the real world that’s fun every now and again becomes necessary, then unimaginable to live without.

The company present those interviewed as warm and friendly despite their reflections on how alcoholism had changed their personalities. Kind and caring people became unlikeable at best and monsters at worst, and the insidiousness of the disease permeates all aspects of their lives. There is a candid honesty to the stories presented here that strongly resonates, despite a lack of innovation in form or structure.

Verbatim theatre is a difficult form to get right. It can easily come across as pedagogic or exploitative, but these stories don’t feel like a lecture or tragedy porn. They are engaging and varied, and the length is just about right for this sort of work. Though more variation would be welcome in the staging and delivery styles, the power here is in the honest and vivid narratives.

Blackout runs through 26 August.

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