Blackbird (play)

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For other uses, see Blackbird (disambiguation).
Blackbird (play).jpg
Script cover
Written by David Harrower
Characters Una, Ray
Date premiered 2005
Place premiered Edinburgh Festival
Edinburgh, Scotland
Original language English
Subject An uneasy reunion between a woman and a middle-aged man fifteen years after he sexually abused her when she was twelve
Genre Drama
Setting Office break room

Blackbird is a play written in 2005 by Scottish playwright David Harrower. It was inspired in part by the crimes of sex offender Toby Studebaker and depicts a young woman meeting a middle-aged man fifteen years after being sexually abused by him when she was twelve.


At his workplace, 55-year-old Ray is shocked to be visited by a young woman, 27-year-old Una. Fifteen years earlier, he had sexually abused her. This relationship, which lasted three months and included intercourse, began and ended when Una was 12 and Ray was 40. Ultimately, they ran off together, and, while Ray was taking time to compose himself after realizing what he had just done, he left her alone in a motel room. She got worried and left to find him, which led to both of them frantically searching for one another and raising suspicions within the small coastal town where they were staying. Eventually, a couple out walking their dog took Una in and called the police after learning why she was there. Ray was then arrested and imprisoned. Upon his release, he managed to establish a reasonably successful new life under another name, but Una recognized him in a photograph and tracked him down.

Ray takes Una to the office break room, where the two engage in a long and difficult confrontation involving Una's continuing struggles to understand and come to terms with the abuse and her intensely conflicting emotions, which pivot between anger, curiosity, confusion, and even a persistent attachment to Ray, whom Una loved – and she believed that he loved her. The fearful Ray, who is himself trying to forget the past and the potential feelings he had for Una, parries her demanding questions and descriptions of her feelings and experiences, all the while uncertain of her intentions.

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation of the play titled Una premiered in September 2016 at the Telluride Film Festival. The film stars Rooney Mara as Una and Ben Mendelsohn as Ray.[1]


Blackbird was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival, with a 2005 premiere at the festival, directed by Peter Stein. In February 2006, it opened at the West End Albery Theatre with Roger Allam and Jodhi May.[2] In September 2006, it was well received in Stockholm at Dramaten (Royal Dramatic Theatre), in a co-production with Helsingborg City Theatre, directed by Eva Dahlman; with Göran Stangertz and Anna Björk.[3][4][5] In the spring of 2007, the play had simultaneous American premieres by the Manhattan Theatre Club (off-Broadway) and at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. The New York production was directed by Joe Mantello,[6] and featured Jeff Daniels and Alison Pill in the lead roles. In April 2008, the play was revived by David Grindley at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, prior to a national tour of the UK.[7] In March 2008, the play opened in Mumbai, India, starring Indian film and theatre veterans Akash Khurana and Shernaz Patel. This Akvarious production was also later presented in Bangalore and in New Delhi. Shernaz Patel went on to win the award for Best Actress, for her portrayal of Una, at the 2010 Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards.[8]

A 2016 Broadway revival was mounted at the Belasco Theatre on 5 February 2016 (37 previews), and opened officially on 10 March (through 11 June, 108 performances), starring Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels. It was directed by Joe Mantello.[9] It received critical praise.[10]

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Rooney, David (5 November 2014). "Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn to Star in Blackbird". Retrieved 17 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Fisher, Philip.[1][dead link] Blackbird, The British Theatre Guide, May 2006
  3. ^ Schwartz, Neil.[2] Strömförande kontakt, Expressen, 18 September 2006
  4. ^ Gustafsson, Asnnika.[3][dead link] Blackbird – en svart roll för Stangertz, Sydsvenskan, 17 January 2007
  5. ^ Granath, Sara.[4] Ett overgrepp pa nytt, SvD, 11 October 2007 (updated)
  6. ^ Sommer, Elyse.[5] A CurtainUp Review: Blackbird – CurtainUp, April 2007
  7. ^ Thaxter, John.[6][dead link] Blackbird – The British Theatre Guide, April 2008
  8. ^ Nair, Nandini."Beyond black and white", The Hindu, 8 May 2009
  9. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Blackbird, Starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams, Now in Broadway Previews", Playbill, 5 February 2016
  10. ^ "Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels stun in abuse drama" by Alexis Soloski, The Guardian, 11 March 2016

Further reading[edit]

  • Harrower, David (2005). Blackbird (First ed.). London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-23080-6. 

External links[edit]