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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Blackout Songs, at Red Stitch Actors' Theatre - 100 minutes, with no interval

Updated: Jun 7

Addiction unplugged. The rollercoaster. Ecstatic. Imaginative. Outrageous. Vitriolic. Sexually charged. Ugly. Brutal. Destructive. Deadly.


So is the relationship with the bottle explored in Joe White’s no holds barred drama Blackout Stories.


Alice is gregarious, demonstrative and creative – the life of a party. She drinks and her mind is like a sieve. She constructs colourful stories.


She spots Charlie – an artist, a good-looking man, all but monosyllabic, stuttering, in a neck brace – at an AA meeting.

Photos by James Reiser

She begins speaking to him … chatting him up. She could talk the leg off a chair.


Thereafter, we get to hear parts of their respective back stories and we follow their circuitous journey.


She writes poetry, or at least she used to.


She doesn’t have a real connection with her father.


She was sent to a Catholic boarding school at the age of 6 and had her first drink, the communion wine, when she was 12.


He is an often self-loathing painter who is out of control. His drinking causes hallucinations. He is prone to lashing out.

The pair forms a connection.


He falls quickly and hard for her. Although she is reluctant to admit it, she too is invested.


Time passes. They spend years falling in and out of each other’s lives.


They binge drink. They try to break their respective alcohol addiction, only to fall off the wagon, time and again.


Truth be told, they aren’t the same people when they are sober. He is responsible, but dull. She is just dull.


However, when he drinks to excess the end game is catastrophic.

Joe White well captures the vicious cycle of addiction, bringing with it the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.


He looks at what it can and does do to individuals and relationships, and, in that regard, it is far from pretty.


What he has crafted looks and feels real.


Interspersed with often deliberately unfocused video imagery of Alice and Charlie, and a searing soundtrack, Sarah Sutherland and Jack Twelvetree excel.


They are totally credible as they morph into the characters they play.


They excite and collide. They love hard and detest.

Sutherland is a bundle of unbridled, unfocused energy.


Twelvetree is a picture of self-destruction, desperately trying to make good.


Blackout Songs is no fairy story with a neatly packaged, happily ever after ending.


Rather, it is brutally honest and compelling theatre. It would be a fair description to say that the truth often hurts … and how!


One hundred minutes without interval, Blackout Songs, directed by Tom Healey, is on at Red Stitch Theatre in St Kilda until 30th June, 2024.


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