Blindsided

Date 22nd April 2022
Society NK Theatre Arts
Venue The Forum Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Jake Martin
Assistant Director Alex Fyfe
Written By Simon Stephens

Report

Author: Kit Phillips

As you entered the studio space at The Forum Theatre for NK Theatre Arts’ production of ‘Blindsided,’ you were greeted with an octagonal room, constructed of simple black curtains, and a raised platform in the centre. A circle of white boxes decorated an otherwise bare stage. The audience took their seats around all sides of the space, very aware of how exposed they were in this unusual theatrical setting. I, for one, am always very excited when seeing companies trying new things and exposing their audiences to different styles of theatre, and so was extremely keen to see what this production had to offer.

‘Blindsided’ tells the story of Cathy Heyer, and her newly formed, yet quick-moving, relationship with John Connolly. In many ways, it’s a story which unfortunately sits in a familiar place in modern society: young lovers, disapproving parents, toxic habits. But as devotion and love is replaced by resentment and anger, Cathy decides to take matters into her own hands and enact a revenge plan to cause as much pain as she can.

Simon Stephen’s story of love, betrayal and retribution is a deeply intimate and intense story, beautifully mirrored through the minimalistic, yet effective, use of set, sound and lighting. From the moment of entering the space, an atmosphere of tension was built which followed right through to the final bows. Pulsating music played under harshly lit transition sequences between scenes. Clinically white boxes were arranged in various ways to create numerous set pieces. The ensemble cast of five played mere meters from us, drawing us into each scene as if we were part of the action. Congratulations to the production and design team for their work in creating a simplistic, yet eerily detached aesthetic for this production.

Maisie Noble led the five-strong cast as Cathy Heyer brilliantly, creating a naive and likeable character whom the audience couldn’t help feeling protective and sympathetic for. She connected well with the other performers on stage and tackled her character’s complex emotional arc with conviction and skill.

Elliot Ashton, as John Connolly, was perfectly the antithesis of Noble’s Cathy: deplorable, manipulative, and downright unlikable – in all the right ways. When you overhear the audience discussing how much they’d like to jump up and “Punch that guy in the face” for how he’s talking to Cathy, then you know, as an actor, you are doing something right!

Kat Bond in her portrayal as Susan Heyer was a delight, and certainly the highlight of my night. Bond performed with such ease and truthful emotion that I was drawn into her character from the moment she appeared on stage. In addition to this, when she later took on the role of older Cathy Heyer in the show’s closing scenes, I watched as she subtly transformed her mannerisms to capture the real essence of the character that Noble had previously portrayed to us. Outstanding work!

Nicola Wilkinson and Owen Wilson took on the supporting roles of Siobhan Hennessey and Isaac Berg respectively. Both were played well, providing some much-needed lighter moments of the show, as well as suitably pushing the narrative on. In a play featuring three extremely complex leading roles, it would have been easy for Wilkinson and Wilson to fade into obscurity; however, both held their presence admirably and complimented the rest of the cast.

The cast worked extremely well as an ensemble, and were slick and well-rehearsed in their movements, scene transitions and performances. At times, I did feel as if some performers were barrelling through lines too quickly, not allowing their characters to rest on a thought, or to believably work through their thought processes. But this was only occasionally and didn’t detract from the overall quality of the performances.

Director Jake Martin and Assistant Director Alex Fyfe have done some excellent work with this piece, improved even further by their decision and skilful execution of performing in the round. They had a strong vision, clear understanding of the plot and its themes, and a strong grasp of their performers. Congratulations!

The only qualm I had upon leaving the theatre, was that considering that the first part of the show was set in 1979 and then the second in 1997, I felt that there could have been more attention paid to establishing this for the audience through stylistic choices. The costumes and some props generally seemed more contemporary than the 1970s/1980s and, without the references to Maggie Thatcher’s upcoming election, I wouldn’t have understood the play’s contextualisation.

Overall, this was an engaging, delightful (while somewhat dark) piece of theatre and a most enjoyable evening. I would like to thank NK Theatre Arts for their hospitality, and look forward to seeing more of what they have to offer in the future.