There’s an ache, a yearning, for things past in this lovely debut by Charley Miles. It comes to Paines Plough’s pop-up Roundabout Theatre after a first showing in 2016, following a writer’s development programme, at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Blackthorn follows two children—the first born into their small Yorkshire village for 20 years—into adulthood. We get snapshots of their lives at key moments. It’s as much a portrait of a changing countryside (with a brilliant gag about a bungalow).
Miles’s dialogue rolls fluidly from childhood games into a prickly adolescence where nothing is quite said but everything is felt, to the decision by Charlotte Bate’s girl (she nor Harry Egan’s boy is ever named) to go to university and, ultimately, to London.
Bate and Egan breathe heartfelt life Miles’s tender, funny exploration of the wrench of change. Their love is a darkening bruise as the British economy re-shapes their farming community. Egan is hurt by Bate’s character’s need for him to stay the same.
The writing is generous as it looks at how home is elusive, even if you stay where you start. There’s an affecting, low-key lyricism to its tracing of the shifting contours of rural life. Childhood roots are deep and tangled, says the play – a lot like love.
Director Jacqui Honess-Martin’s stripped-back production wisely lets the play do the talking, while using moments of urgent choreography to cement the intense connection of two people straining to be apart and together at the same time.