1 – 18 November
by Phil Charles
Directed by Tessa Hart
A gay man is denied refuge to a women-only abuse shelter after fleeing his violent partner, but is snuck in by one of the residents. Winner of ‘The Bread & Roses Playwriting Award’, The Black Eye Club is a darkly funny and poignant look at a relationship between two strangers, and is a moving insight into abuse, and the crippling effect austerity has had on some of Britain’s most vulnerable.
Based on the writer’s real-world experiences as a support worker, the highlight of the show is the exceptional characterisation work in both the writing and performances.
The characters are recognisable and touching. Dave, played by Christopher Sherwood, is hesitantly self-consciousness and subtle, and plays brilliantly against Rebecca Pryle’s chatty and airheaded Zoe. Both characters are scarred, deep and compelling, and make for lovable tragic figures.
Cathryn Sherman rounds out the cast as Sharon, and makes the most of her smaller role with some of the play’s most memorable moments.
The play does have a few issues. The third act twist feels slightly contrived, and the main characters are sometimes so opposite that a few intimate moments were hard for me to reconcile with their previous disconnects. In both cases, the engaging performances carry the piece.
Well-directed by Tessa Hart, the play is at its best during its brilliantly vivid moments of dark situation comedy. I have never heard ‘I Will Survive’ sung as movingly, or as badly as in this production. I had tears in my eyes, and I’m not sure if they were from the emotion or the laughter.
It’s high quality work from a theatre worth supporting.