Brad Birch’s new play Black Mountain, part of the Paines Plough and Theatr Clwyd season at The Orange Tree Theatre, is a taught psychological thriller which grips the audience, and has hearts pounding, before the first word is even spoken.
The plot is drip fed to us in clues, Rebecca and Paul are a couple with relationship difficulties, trying to resolve their issues in some remote mountain lodge. They have separate bedrooms and Rebecca’s unwillingness to respond to Paul’s appeasing actions make it clear where the fault lies.
When Helen, whom Paul has clearly had an affair with, turns up, we realise that Rebecca has no intentions of forgiving Paul, she wants to make him suffer. What follows is some incredibly adept writing, which keeps the audience guessing right up to the very last moment, and beyond.
In each of these Paines Plough and Theatre Clwyd productions, the lighting from Peter Small is exceptional, but in Black Mountain particularly, it plays an even greater role. Sharp shafts of light, and torches help create terrifying scenes, with strobe lighting used to great effect in the climactic moments. At times, the darkness is just important as the light, building a palpable tension within the auditorium.
Hasan Dixon gives an incredible performance, having to constantly shift his perception of what is happening around him, he is able to capture each of the emotions with perfect sincerity. Both Sally Messham and Katie-Elin Salt build up in to their roles, keeping us all slightly on edge as to what could happen next.
Black Mountain is the very definition of psychological thriller, keeping the audience on their toes throughout, with numerous gear changes and hidden surprises. If the writing wasn’t enough, then the staging and powerful performances make this an absolute gem of a production.