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Blackthorn review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘striking and sensitive debut play’

Harry Egan and Charlotte Bate in Blackthorn at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Anthony Robling Harry Egan and Charlotte Bate in Blackthorn at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Anthony Robling

Here’s something a little bit special. Charley Miles’ debut play Blackthorn, which premiered at Leeds Playhouse in 2016, weaves together two tales – one a stirring almost-love story, the other a sobering account of the disintegration of a rural farming community.

A time-hopping two-hander, it slips through a series of conversations between a nameless boy and a nameless girl, the first two babies to be born in a Yorkshire village for 20 years.

They play as innocent children. They fall in love as teenagers. They grow apart as she moves away to university and he stays behind to work. They meet up again at the wedding of a mutual friend. They row when she returns home from London.

It’s tender, at times heart-burstingly so, but it’s also much more than that. As the years slide past, the village evolves: holiday homes instead of workers’ cottages; weekend visitors instead of permanent residents; a chic bistro instead of a rowdy local. Country life, collapsing.

Jacqui Honess-Martin’s uncluttered but enormously moving production boasts two great performances from Harry Egan and Charlotte Bate, him terse and reserved, her bubbly and anxious.

A striking and sensitive debut, with an important and authentic story.

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Verdict
Sensitive and stirring almost-love story set in an evolving rural community
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