As we entered the Soho Theatre’s upstairs room this evening Richard Blackwood was laying down without moving on a raised hard surface, and stayed there for a good ten minutes plus as the audience slowly filtered in. But the moment the lights went down he leapt up and turned in an astonishing performance, a burst of energy which never lets up until the final few seconds of the production.
It’s an amazing piece of acting which genuinely surprised, I knew Blackwood as a very likeable stand up comedian in the 90’s but had no idea that he’d transformed in to such an impressive actor, and here he not only takes on the lead role but often portrays other characters, some black, some white, some male and some female, and never for a second is he less that utterly convincing.
If you’re unaware of the subject matter of the play, or the fact that it’s based on a real life story, you could be fooled in to thinking it’s going to be a lighthearted affair and the first half is just that as it explores the existence of central character Christopher who seems to have a real passion for life, sure not everything’s going his way, his marriage has failed and he doesn’t exactly love his job, but he puts the hours in so he can go out at the weekend, when he’s not seeing his kids at least.
The play then launches in to a typical night out for Christopher, where he meets up with friends and has aimless but very funny conversations with them (there’s an especially astute observation about The Lion King at one point) but after he heads to a nightclub there’s hints of the bleaker aspects of his life, from a bouncer who initially doesn’t want to let him in to an interaction with three deeply unpleasant individuals who taunt him while in the club, and after leaving everything starts to become nightmarish.
Blackwood’s performance is so good that at this point the play becomes painful to watch as we see Christopher’s life spiral out of control, Blackwood and writer Ryan Calais Cameron have created such a likeable, appealing character that it’s truly upsetting to see what happens to him over the course of the evening. And of course even worse is that as the title of the play suggests, this is a typical night out, perhaps not for Christopher but definitely for many black individuals across the country.
It’s an incredibly powerful work, made all the more devastating by the way it ends. The script deserves an enormous amount of acclaim as the language used is quite poetic in places but at the same time always feels natural, and the tone is judged perfectly as it builds to it’s traumatic ending. This really is a must see production, one with a breathtaking central performance and a message which needs to be heard by all.