It’s how we deal with violence. How we seek out people who say what we need to hear. How those people carry us. How something utterly inappropriate can be exactly what we need. It’s facing the fact that some people think human life is worth less than a mobile phone.
Blunted is a difficult play to review. It is unremittingly grim in its depiction of grief. Some of the characters are unlikeable. The walls of New Century House’s Pioneer Stage are etched with the howls of Alice Brockway’s (also on writing duties) Tess. This all adds up to something of a test of will. Affected by a unseen incident she has spiralled down into a deep depression. Her friends Evie (Lowri Vivian) and Jay (John Mulleady) cannot get her out of it and it’s soon clear that Tess is on the brink.
Blunted desperately wants to have something to say on the subject of social decay. Not much happens during it, but as the plot slowly peels away it becomes a personal story of help turning to hatred and the inability to come to terms with grief. By making it so intensely personal perhaps it falls foul of becoming too bleak and without hope. This said, the handling of the outcome of a particular verdict reflects what we’d probably all do given the circumstances.
Sadly, although this is a potentially strong premise, a number of problems with Brockway’s script and Helen Parry’s direction cause problems in appreciating the potential. Firstly, there is some very ill-judged humour. One scene where Vivian’s Evie is hysterical that her friend has gome missing in the middle of the night is undermined by the audience laughing at Mulleady’s choice of pyjama bottoms thus rendering the scene a bizarre cross between comedy and drama. It’s not the only occurrence of badly timed humour either.
Evie and Jay themselves are a further problem. As a ‘normal’ couple, they are supposed to be the lynchpin around which Tess can rebuild her life, but instead their bickering grates against your skull, such is the force with which they scream and shout their way through the plot. Evie’s flirtatious nature also saddles Lowri Vivian with some cringeworthy moments – is she merely a one-dimensional temptress or something more? It becomes difficult to judge and unfortunately she becomes fiery and a shade unlikeable. Thankfully, one ray of sunshine is Andrew Fillis as Glenn who is a quiet and dependable character – but even he is flawed as he vanishes at key points in Tess’s road to recovery. Nobody’s perfect – but it’s not a support network I’d like to rely on.
Unfortunately, Blunted left me feeling exactly that. Whilst it is true that modern society has a lot to answer for and Blunted doesn’t suggest or provide any answers, the ill-judged humour rubs against a plot that leaves you with little hope. Maybe that’s the point, but the execution of the script and the flaws in the characters left this viewer disconnected, cold but perhaps also looking over the shoulder, just in case of any lurking happy slappers in the shadows.
The Fiction Stroker gives Blunted two strokes out of five:
Blunted runs until 26 July as part of the 24:7 Festival at New Century House.