Back to Blackbrick
Back to Blackbrick
By Alex Howarth, after Sarah Moore-Fitzgerald
Arts Theatre West End and touring
Director & Adaptation
August 2015-July 2016
Cast: Alex Brain, Grahame Edwards, Lizzie Grace, Lloyd Bagley, Alexandra Simonet
Composers and Musicians: Eleanor and Imogen Mason
Lighting and Video Design: Wil Monks
★★★★★ -'something very special' - West End Frame
★★★★★ - 'I pretty much fell in love with both the play and the company on the spot'
- The Blog of Theatre Things
★★★★ - 'truly poignant.... the same crisp, incisive direction that Patch of Blue have showed in a string of previous successes'- The List
★★★★ - 'one to remember'- The Edinburgh Guide
★ ★ ★ ★
Patch of Blue’s touching Back to Blackbrick, based on the novel by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, puts a magical spin on the issues of dementia and ageing, weaving together a boy sorrowfully charting his grandfather’s inexorable mental decline with a time-travelling love story.
It requires a pretty big suspension of disbelief at points, but by the end it’s a truly poignant reflection on memory, family and fate, brought vividly alive in a big, warm hug of a show. It has the same crisp, incisive direction (here from Alex Howarth) that Patch of Blue have showed in a string of previous Fringe successes, and a fine, multi-part-playing cast: Alex Brain is impressively wide-eyed as the well-meaning central character Cosmo, and Grahame Edwards gratifyingly understated as his increasingly confused grandfather.
Live music from an ever-active duo is subtle and supportive, and there’s an inventive takeaway item for after the show has finished.
★ ★ ★ ★
A tale about story telling and memory. As we get older we don’t stop learning, but what if we stop remembering, even our own life story?
The edges of past and present are becoming blurred for Granddad Kevin, he is being stolen away from those who love him by the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. Young Cosmo has fond memories of sitting listening to his Granddad’s stories by dim lamp glow but now the old man is often confused, unsure who people around him are, a pyjama clad figure searching the house at night.The family find ways of coping, like adding post-it labels to items and photographs. “The first time Granddad peed in the dishwasher..” comments Cosmo, implying that the reminders don’t always work and he searches for other “cures” from crosswords to positive mental attitude to a brain-boosting diet of salmon.
With the return of Kevin’s brother from San-Francisco and looming assessment by his doctor the threat of taking him into nursing care tears at the family set-up. Memories are not only difficult for Granddad. Cosmo is haunted by the accidental death of his brother, Brian and his mother has thrown herself into work in Australia in the belief that it’s sometimes better to forget.
Aware that his mind is fading Granddad gives a key to Cosmo telling him to go back to Blackbrick Abbey. What at first seems like a lucid moment also sounds like a further descent into a world of half remembered fantasy. What Cosmo finds behind the rusted gates of the Abbey seems to offer a chance to go back in time to a point where Kevin can remember, where perhaps even Brian can be saved. But like elusive memories not everything seems to be in the right place and a family drama could spell a major problem - non-existence for Cosmo.
This adaptation of Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s time-slip novel stays faithful to it’s “young adult” roots, but it’s a work that’s accessible and enjoyable to all ages. It manages to deal with big issues of family, love, loss, separation, how we deal with memory and illness while still telling a well-paced story that’s both humorous and tear jerking, stopping just short of mawkish.
The acting is passionate, with the central performances as Cosmo and Granddad being particularly credible. Having the other cast members also act as both narrator and the inner voice of Cosmo is a nice touch. There are some excellent samples used along with the atmospheric live folksy soundtrack.
It’s a great production and one to remember.