Tag Archives: Christopher Nairne

Blackout Songs

Blackout Songs


Hampstead Theatre

BLACKOUT SONGS at the Hampstead Theatre



Blackout Songs

“the ending is strong enough that the audience’s slight loss of attention is whipped back into submission”


Alice and Charlie have both found themselves at their first AA meeting. Lingering by the coffee table, avoiding taking their seats, Alice persuades Charlie that he needs a drink for medicinal purposes, and off they run. This is the beginning of a tumultuous, toxic, hopelessly sincere love story. Or at least, that’s how one of them remembers it.

Scenes are presented as fact, later disputed or questioned, with no resolution; specific details and conversations repeat themselves in various parts of the story, and the audience experiences the desperate, failing attempt to recall things as they happened. It reminds me of Florian Zeller’s The Father, where we experience dementia first-hand, except in this case, neither witness is reliable, nor does it really matter. The fact is they love each other.

Anisha Fields’ design appears, at first, almost non-existent: stackable chairs line two sides of the stage, and that’s about it. It’s possible that’s just how the auditorium looked pre-rehearsals. After a while, though, despite their avoidance of AA, the chairs seem to suggest that the whole play is taking place at a meeting, someone trying to set the record straight, finally. Alice is dressed like Penny Lane from Almost Famous, in a fitted Afghan coat, large sunglasses, and a little slip dress. The comparison is perfect: Alice has performed as herself for so long she’s become the performance, and what appears false initially is actually just who she is now. She seems so ridiculous on first meeting that I’m worried Rebecca Humphries just isn’t very good, or the script has let her down. But the opposite is true: her façade is ridiculous, but her insecurities bubble just under the surface.

Alex Austin’s Charlie is scrappy and dopey and his near lack of costume- baggy top and jeans- reflects that. He’s the antithesis of Alice, always himself, always honest about how he feels. Austin appears as a nervous puppy, so ready to be loved, and it’s completely endearing and, ultimately, heart breaking.

Sound designer Holly Khan and lighting designer Christopher Nairne do a lot of the heavy lifting: masses of reverb when they’re in a church, a thudding heartbeat timed so perfectly with the on-stage tension, you can’t recall when it started; sickly florescent tubes double as unflattering lighting at the AA meeting, and artful strobes, denoting the strange experience of time, and the eponymous blackouts.

There is no dead space in this script, but writer Joe White does have a problem on his hands. Because despite the fact that there are no scenes to cut, it’s too long. Ultimately it doesn’t matter; the ending is strong enough that the audience’s slight loss of attention is whipped back into submission. But the script is so nearly perfect, it’s a shame it’s not ever so slightly pacier.



Reviewed on 10th November 2022

by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Robert Day



Previously reviewed at this venue:


The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | August 2021
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | May 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | June 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | October 2022



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The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson


Theatre Royal Windsor & UK Tour

The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson

The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 10th February 2020



“The wit may be less caustic than some Remainers might think BoJo deserves, but this is an entertaining and fast-moving send-up”


Now that we apparently have ‘got Brexit done’ is there an appetite for satirical comedy about Boris’ route up the well-greased political pole? Jonathan Maitland’s ‘The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson’ provides an evening of good-natured political satire that breezes merrily along to a surprise ending that literally brings the house down.

The play opens at the by now infamous Islington dinner party at which Boris has to decide if he (and as it turns out, the United Kingdom) is in or out. He’s haunted by some ghastly spectres from the political past, including a funny impersonation of Tony Blair by Tim Wallers and an unlikely appearance by Margaret Thatcher which takes the line out of the Johnsonian catchphrase about oven-ready politics.

Will Barton is a fine shoe-in for BoJo, looking and sounding pretty much like him, complete with an instantly recognisable shambling swagger and a finely honed repertoire of hair-ruffling gestures. The dinner guests are Michael Gove (Bill Champion’s somewhat kindly impersonation), the Evening Standard’s owner, name-dropping Evgeny Lebedev (Tim Wallers) and their politically savvy partners (Emma Davies and Claire Lichie). All four give very spritely performances, with two other roles each.

Playwright Maitland shouts that Boris Johnson cares only for what’s good for him, not the country. When Johnson plumps for Leave, Johnson is briefly lit as the Messiah, in a less than subtle reference to the play’s title. The result of the 2016 referendum is a ghastly surprise to Boris whose apparently career-enhancing manoeuvre has gone horribly wrong. But that’s politics. The second half of the play takes on a darker tone as it imagines Britain in 2029. Can Alexa be trusted when she says the US-sourced lamb is organic? And just what does Amazon BBC News make of Boris now?

After some amusing speculations about our national future, the piece comes to a satisfying conclusion. The wit may be less caustic than some Remainers might think BoJo deserves, but this is an entertaining and fast-moving send-up, not polemic. A national tour continues to Newcastle, Guildford, Salford and Eastbourne until March 14th.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Pamela Raith


The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson

Theatre Royal Windsor until 15th February then UK tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Trials Of Oscar Wilde | ★★★★ | March 2019
Octopus Soup! | ★★½ | April 2019
The Mousetrap | ★★★★ | October 2019
The Nutcracker | ★★★★ | November 2019
What’s In A Name? | ★★★★ | November 2019
Ten Times Table | ★★★★ | January 2020


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