Blackbird (play)

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This article is about the David Harrower play. For other theatrical works with similar titles, 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 one-act, ninety-minute 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, when Una was only twelve, he sexually abused her, for which Ray was arrested and imprisoned. He has 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. These rocket back and forth between anger, curiosity, confusion, and even a persistent attachment to Ray, whom Una loved and believed loved her. The fearful Ray parries her demanding questions and descriptions of her feelings and experiences, all the while uncertain of her intentions.

Film adaptation[edit]

As of November 2015, a film adaptation of the play is in post-production.[1] The film stars Rooney Mara as Una and Ben Mendelsohn as Ray. The title has been changed from Blackbird to Una. It is expected to have its premiere on the festival circuit sometime in 2016. Harrower wrote the screenplay.[2]


Blackbird was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival and premiered at the 2005 festival under the direction of Peter Stein. In February 2006, it opened at the West End Albery Theatre with Roger Allam and Jodhi May in the primary roles.[3] In September 2006, it was well received by critics and audience when it premiered in Stockholm at Dramaten (Royal Dramatic Theatre), in a co-production with Helsingborg City Theatre, directed by Eva Dahlman; with Göran Stangertz as Ray and Anna Björk as Una.[4][5][6] In the spring of 2007, the play had simultaneous American premieres by the Manhattan Theater Club (off-Broadway) and at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. The New York production was directed by Joe Mantello.[7] In April 2008, the play was revived in a new production by David Grindley at the Rose Theatre, Kingston prior to a national tour of the UK.[8] In March 2008, the play opened in Mumbai, India, starring Indian film and theatre veterans Akash Khurana and Shernaz Patel. It was an Akvarious Production and has since done shows in Bangalore and New Delhi. Shernaz Patel went on to win the award for Best Actress, for her portrayal of Una, at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, 2010.[9] In March 2010, the play opened at Gothenburg City Theatre, Sweden. Director was Andrés Lima, with Nina Zanjani as Una and Lars Väringer as Ray. The play opened at Everyman Theatre on 12 May 2010, in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore premiere directed by Derek Goldman stars Everyman Resident Company member Megan Anderson and David Parkes in his Everyman debut.[10]

A revival opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre on 5 February 2016 (previews), officially on 10 March, starring Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels in a limited run to 12 June. The play is directed by Joe Mantello.[11]

As of September 2010, the work has had more than 40 productions performed worldwide.

Venues (alphabetically)[edit]

Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa[edit]

22 March - 8 April 2011

  • Warrick Grier .... Ray
  • Deborah Vieyra .... Una
  • Rebekah Nathan and Lucy Giffard .... Girl

Directed by Bo Petersen.

College of Charleston Center Stage[edit]

28 September – 1 October 2011

  • Steven Moskos ... Ray
  • Allison Wilde ... Una
  • Baylor Shull ... Girl

Directed by Jessica Dick

Flying Penguin Productions, Adelaide, Australia[edit]

22–30 October 2010, Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

  • Terence Crawford .... Ray
  • Ksenja Logos .... Una
  • Scarlett Groom-Ransom .... Girl

Directed by David Mealor.

Intimate Theatre, University of Cape Town[edit]

21 September - 2 October 2010

  • Warrick Grier .... Ray
  • Deborah Vieyra .... Una
  • Rebekah Nathan and Lucy Giffard .... Girl

Directed by Bo Petersen.

Národní divadlo[edit]

Translated by David Drozd. The play had premiere on 26 February 2010 in National Theatre, Prague.[12]

  • Jiří Štěpnička .... Ray
  • Jana Pidrmanová .... Una
  • Helena Němcová ... Girl

Directed by Jiří Pokorný.

Piccolo Teatro di Milano[edit]

From 26 April – 29 May 2011[13] Translated by Alessandra Serra

  • Massimo Popolizio ... Ray
  • Anna Della Rosa ... Una
  • Silvia Altrui ... Girl

Directed by Lluís Pasqual

Progress Theatre, Reading[edit]

17–22 October 2011

  • Matt Tully ... Ray
  • Rebecca Sumner Smith ... Una
  • Sasha Briggs ... Girl

Directed by: Tony Wernham

Setagaya Public Theatre[edit]

The play watching in Tokyo's theatre.[14]

Directed by Tamiya Kuriyama.

Singapore Repertory Theatre[edit]

September 2010, Singapore.

  • Emma Yong
  • Daniel Jenkins

Directed by Tracie Pang.

Slovenian Theatre[edit]

On 10 May 2009 the play had its Slovenian language premiere at Cankar Hall, Ljubljana, Slovenija. Slovene title is Črni kos.[15]

  • Iva Babič
  • Janez Starina
  • Lucija Tratnik

Directed by Rene Maurin

The South African State Theatre

2–26 September 2015, Pretoria

  • Lionel Newton.... Ray
  • Robin Rainsford McHarry.... Una

Directed by Vanessa Cooke; production design by Wilhelm Disbergen

Teatre Lliure, Barcelona[edit]

On 16 January 2013 the play had its Catalan language premiere (translated by Júlia Ibarz) at Teatre Lliure, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.[16]

Directed by Lluís Pasqual

Theatr Bara Caws[edit]

13 April - 8 May 2010, translated by Bryn Fôn, the Welsh title is Deryn Du.

Directed by Sion Humphreys

Théâtre du Nouveau Monde[edit]

September 2009, Montreal, Quebec.

Directed by Claudia Stavisky.

Théâtre Prospéro[edit]

8–23 September 2011, Montreal

Traduction : Étienne Lepage

Direction : Téo Spychalski

Victory Gardens Biograph Theater[edit]

See also Biograph Theater.

Directed by Dennis Začek

TrzyRzecze Theater[edit]

27 July 2012, Bialystok.

Directed by Konrad Dulkowski and Rafał Gaweł

Forward Thinking Theatre[edit]

26/27 September 2014, Winchester Discovery Centre.

Directed by Stephen Love

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Fisher, Philip.Blackbird, The British Theatre Guide, May 2006.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Neil.Strömförande kontakt, Expressen, 18 September 2006.
  5. ^ Gustafsson, Asnnika.Blackbird - en svart roll för Stangertz, Sydsvenskan, 17 January 2007.
  6. ^ Granath, Sara.Ett overgrepp pa nytt, SvD, 11 October 2007 (updated).
  7. ^ Sommer, Elyse.A CurtainUp Review: Blackbird CurtainUp, April 2007.
  8. ^ Thaxter, John.Blackbird, The British Theatre Guide, April 2008.
  9. ^ Nair, Nandini.Beyond black and white, The Hindu, 8 May 2009.
  10. ^ McCauley,Mary Carole.'Blackbird' may be Megan Anderson's star turn, The Baltimore Sun, 13 May 2010.
  11. ^ Viagas, Robert. "'Blackbird', Starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams, Arrives on Broadway Tonight",5 February 2016
  12. ^ Národní divadlo production
  13. ^ Piccolo Teatro di Milano production
  14. ^ Andrews, William.Japan gets a taste of bracing 'in-yer-face theater', The Japan Times, 24 July 2009.
  15. ^ Slovenian Theatre production
  16. ^ Teatre Lliure Production

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]