Black Mountain

Brad Birch
Paines Plough, Theatr Clywd, Orange Tree Theatre
Orange Tree Theatre

Black Mountain

Some people find it difficult to tell the truth but surely few can look as furtive as Paul (Hasan Dixon) in the Hitchcockian psychological drama by Brad Birch.

You know something isn’t quite right when you see Paul and his partner Rebecca (Katie Elin-Salt). They have come to a remote house in the mountains to sort things out, but they sleep in separate rooms, never touch and never seem to have anything affectionate to say. Not that they argue. They just swing between being coldly distant to being strangely suspicious of each other.

The stage is bare. We imagine the set aided by variations in the lighting. In moments of tension when perhaps someone remembers something, there is a flash of light. Of course that flash is just the faulty wiring of an outside light... Or is it?

Unsettling things keep happening.

An axe goes missing from a shed (and you know what that means in a Hitchcock film), a bloodied bird lands in Rebecca’s lap (or so she claims) and a faint mist constantly swirls about the characters.

Paul clearly has things to hide. He looks guilty whenever Rebecca asks him about a note the landlord had promised to leave them. More seriously, he fails to tell Rebecca that a former lover, Helen (Sally Messham), has stalked him to the house and is lurking somewhere outside.

He is tense, sleeps badly, is always slapping his flesh claiming he is being bitten by insects and after a while finds it difficult to walk.

The women are coldly distant and obsessed with asking him to be honest with them. They ask such similar things, he gradually suspects they are in league “to fuck me up”.

The play takes his point of view but we wonder if he is simply paranoid with guilt or if what we see is simply a bad dream.

Is it all just a sexist male fantasy about psychotic women?

The mystery is everything. There is no character development so we can barely be expected to care much what happens to them. There are no grand ideas beyond the old Hitchcock paranoia about the dishonesty and cruelty of women.

It is simply one stupid man, two psycho women, too slow a plot and a bag of contrived theatrical tricks intended to mildly unsettle you before bed.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna