Gabriel Blackwell
The Better Craftsman
C ARTS | C venues | C aquila


In an unnamed coastal English city, young Oli heads out into the night looking for some form of viscerality. 18 years old and full of the exuberance and blithe focus of youth, he has meaning to find in life, alcohol to drink, lights to dance under and a story to tell.

Cruelty is a darkly witty and keenly raw journey through the mind of a young man grappling with life and recounting the scattershot details of the beauty and the mundanity of it all. But underneath, there’s something dark and painful weighing on his mind. Luke Nixon flies onstage as Oli, whizzing like a dervish, all energy, all winking flirtation and mysterious depths, as he recounts his days and nights out in the clubs, dancing and catching the eye of a mysterious older man by the bar.

But this isn’t a tale of romance; it’s an elegy to things that don’t exist, a Ulyssean poem that never quite makes honest sense. The fourth wall isn’t broken so much as gleefully stepped through repeatedly, Oli being a theatre student, often describing the falseness of it all, hinting at the unreliability of his own narration and stepping constantly around the causes of pain in his life and his obsession with the vast endlessness of the sea and the abruptness of the cliffs under the endless burning lights of the city.

Gabriel Blackwell’s first play is an excellent and stupendous debut. It's atmospheric, as well as genuinely funny, playfully easy with the audience, even when describing the strange uncomfortableness of interactions between awkward people in unknowable situations, unable to express themselves; the nightmarish confusion of the false confidence of youth desperately looking for something real from life and not being comfortable with what they find peering back at them.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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