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Black Mountain review at Roundabout at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘more atmospheric than suspenseful’

Hasan Dixon and Katie Elin-Salt in Black Mountain. Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Rebecca and Paul have gone to a remote cabin to try and salvage their relationship and do some healing after some unspecified, but presumably traumatic, betrayal.

Brad Birch’s new play for Paines Plough – performed in tandem with Out of Love by the same cast – has the makings of a psychological thriller. It contains many of the tropes of the genre: the isolated setting, the mysterious neighbours, the sense that something or someone may have followed them and that they might not be as alone as they think.

James Grieve and lighting designer Peter Small use darkness to generate atmosphere and create the sense that something is amiss between the couple, though whether this is all in Paul’s head remains ambiguous. The play itself is opaque and murky. The mist never lifts and Birch refuses to pin down the reason they’re at the cabin in the first place. It all feels a bit thin and is also strangely light on suspense.

Hasan Dixon convinces as a man who may be losing his grip on reality and Katie Elin-Salt’s performance as Rebecca is full of gentle menace, but while there are a couple of functional jump scares, mainly generated by the lighting, and some fannying about with an axe, this does not a thriller make.

Psychological thriller that’s more atmospheric than it is suspenseful

Production Information

Black Mountain
Roundabout at Summerhall
August 5, 2017
August 26, 2017
Brad Birch
James Grieve
Peter Small
Dominic Kennedy
Jennifer Jackson (movement), Linnea Friden Gronning (company stage manager)
Cast includes
Sally Messham, Katie Elin-Salt, Hasan Dixon
Paines Plough, Theatr Clywd, Orange Tree Theatre
Running time
1hr 10mins