“Alone at last I watch baby Calum sleep….. He wakes and I try to help him walk. I do monkey moves and juggle in the air. He laughs and I look away. I look back. I look around. I shout out his name. My heart begins to speed up and then I see him – on the far side of the roof. His steps are small and wobbly. He falls. My breath is trapped. I run to where he’d been. I hesitate. I look. Thirteen floors beneath me Calum is lying face down. I cannot hear a thing. Who has switched off the sound?”
London in the future, in a world of divided loyalties and dwindling resources. 20 year old Paul, his girlfriend Sufia, and his little sister (a teenage mum) Leah face a tragedy, which forces them to make decisions that will change their lives forever. Blowback hard-hitting piece for teenagers was about race, love, despondency, accountability and responsibility and toured nationally to venues and schools.
“Although Blowback is a play for the 13-plus age group about issues such as race, teenage sex, drugs and dysfunctional families, Emily Nightingale’s characterisation and plot are strong enough to prevent too much self-conscious worthiness.
Spliff-smoking Paul (Patrick Thornton), trying to conceal his vulnerability with a well-acted façade of nonchalance, is a drop-out hanging about on the roof of a block of flats in globally warmed Stepney around 2020. There he meets and falls in love with Sufia (Babita Pohoolmull), a thoughtful and mercurially pretty Asian girl. Of course there has to be another force impinging on them for dramatic tension and it comes in the shape of Paul’s sister, Leah (Louise Leone), a single mother who loathes her brother’s new relationship and is disturbingly confused about her own role as mother, daughter, friend and occasional partner of the off-stage character Tattoo Steve.
The climax comes in a horrifying rooftop accident and its aftermath of remorse, forgiveness and reconciliation. There is a well done, blood red, nightmare scene in which Thornton, his voice cracked and ragged, gives a fine performance of haunted, anguished guilt. Later Leone, who shifts expertly between brittle hardness and nurturing motherliness at her allotment and during rooftop visits, plays her character’s dreadful loss with great sensitivity. Pohoolmull finds gentle warmth in Sufia and although the play ends with a (very) final futuristic parting, there is a sense of optimism for the future.
Steff Ungerser’s music works well – and it comes on a CD to take away as part of the programme – with its Bangladeshi and Ghanaian leitmotivs but occasionally the cast are straining to make themselves heard through it. And I don’t know what you can do about stage smoke in a very small space when it is an integral part of the design but, inevitably, makes the audience choke.”
Susan Elkin, The Stage, September 2005