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 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 is set for a 2016 release.[1] The film stars Rooney Mara as Una and Ben Mendelsohn as Ray.[2]


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.[3] 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.[4][5][6] 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,[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] In March 2010, the play opened at Gothenburg City Theatre, Sweden, directed by Andrés Lima, starring Nina Zanjani and Lars Väringer. The play opened at Everyman Theatre on 12 May 2010, in Baltimore, Maryland, directed by Derek Goldman and starring Everyman Resident Company member Megan Anderson and David Parkes in his Everyman debut.[10]

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.[11] It received critical praise.[12]

Venues (alphabetically)[edit]

"Liria" Hall, Tirana, Albania[edit]

22–26 March 2016

  • Pjerin Vlashi as Ray
  • Eglantina Cenomeri as Una
  • Franceska Hysi as Girl

Directed by Donard Hasani

Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa[edit]

22 March – 8 April 2011

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

Directed by Bo Petersen

Belasco Theatre, New York City[edit]

10 March – 11 June 2016

Directed by Joe Mantello[13]

College of Charleston Center Stage[edit]

28 September – 1 October 2011

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

Directed by Jessica Dick

Flying Penguin Productions, Adelaide, Australia[edit]

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

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

Directed by David Mealor

ForwardThinkingTheatre, Hampshire, England[edit]

26–27 September 2014, Winchester Discovery Centre

  • Andy Ball as Ray
  • Gemma Louise-Burges as Una
  • Acadia Stanton as Girl

Directed by Stephen Love

Intimate Theatre, University of Cape Town[edit]

21 September – 2 October 2010

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

Directed by Bo Petersen

Národní divadlo (National Theatre (Prague))[edit]

Translated by David Drozd. The play premiered 26 February 2010.[14]

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

Directed by Jiří Pokorný

Piccolo Teatro (Milan)[edit]

26 April – 29 May 2011[15] Translated by Alessandra Serra

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

Directed by Lluís Pasqual

Progress Theatre, Reading[edit]

17–22 October 2011

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

Directed by Tony Wernham

Setagaya Public Theatre, Tokyo[edit]

July 2009[16]

Directed by Tamiya Kuriyama

Singapore Repertory Theatre, Singapore[edit]

September 2010

  • Daniel Jenkins
  • Emma Yong

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.[17]

  • Iva Babič
  • Janez Starina
  • Lucija Tratnik

Directed by Rene Maurin

The South African State Theatre, Pretoria[edit]

2–26 September 2015

  • Lionel Newton
  • Robin Rainsford McHarry

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, Spain.[18]

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, Montreal[edit]

September 2009

Directed by Claudia Stavisky

Théâtre Prospéro, Montreal[edit]

8–23 September 2011 Translated by Étienne Lepage

  • Gabriel Arcand as Ray
  • Marie-Ève Pelletier as Una
  • Rebecca Vachon as Girl

Direction : Téo Spychalski

Victory Gardens Biograph Theater[edit]

Directed by Dennis Začek

Trzyrzecze Theater, Białystok[edit]

27 July 2012

  • Tomasz Sobczak
  • Dagmara Bąk

Directed by Konrad Dulkowski and Rafał Gaweł

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, Edward (6 November 2015). "First Look: Rooney Mara And Ben Mendelsohn In 'Una' (Formerly Known As 'Blackbird')". Retrieved 17 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Rooney, David (5 November 2014). "Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn to Star in 'Blackbird'". Retrieved 17 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Fisher, Philip.[1][dead link] Blackbird, The British Theatre Guide, May 2006
  4. ^ Schwartz, Neil.[2] Strömförande kontakt, Expressen, 18 September 2006
  5. ^ Gustafsson, Asnnika.[3][dead link] Blackbird – en svart roll för Stangertz, Sydsvenskan, 17 January 2007
  6. ^ Granath, Sara.[4] Ett overgrepp pa nytt, SvD, 11 October 2007 (updated)
  7. ^ Sommer, Elyse.[5] A CurtainUp Review: Blackbird – CurtainUp, April 2007
  8. ^ Thaxter, John.[6][dead link] 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, Now in Broadway Previews", Playbill, 5 February 2016
  12. ^ "Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels stun in abuse drama" by Alexis Soloski, The Guardian, 11 March 2016
  13. ^ Blackbird at the Internet Broadway Database
  14. ^ [7] Národní divadlo production
  15. ^ [8] Piccolo Teatro di Milano production
  16. ^ Andrews, William.[9] Japan gets a taste of bracing 'in-yer-face theater' – The Japan Times, 24 July 2009
  17. ^ [10] Slovenian Theatre production
  18. ^ [11] Teatre Lliure Production

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]