Blackbird Manila: The Award-Winning ‘Horrible’ Love Story of Una and Ray

Stories of rape, abuse, sexual harassment, and the like are just some issues we all find hard to talk about. But given the rampant persistence of the real monsters in our society, it only makes the matter all the more essential to be talked about.

That is just what Scottish playwright David Harrower wanted when he started with his play Blackbird which has now had successful runs all over the world and now, Manila. The play has also gotten a film adaptation in 2016. The success of Blackbird is made more evident by the number of awards and nominations (some from the Tony awards, no less) the play and its actors have received over the years.

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What makes this play different from other literary pieces on abuse is that it provides the viewers a look into the relationship, however wrong and unjustifiable, that occurred between a 40-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl. While it does not deny that clear sexual abuse happened, it still depicts the two characters’ perception of their relationship as opposed to the public’s perception of definite abuse.

Blackbird is the story of Una, a 27-year-old woman confronting Ray, a 55-year-old man about their harrowing past. The entirety of the play is put into one, long, continuous scene spanning 80-90 minutes revolving around Una’s confrontation of Ray as they process the feelings of doubt, regret, frustration, and brokenness they both still carry.

While it is definitely abuse, Ray’s character is shown to have trouble coming to terms with defining himself as an abuser and denies that he is a pedophile. Mr. Bart Guingona plays Ray, and although the actor expressed how difficult the script was for the both of them to memorize due to its Mamet Speak nature, he delivers the lines exceptionally well. Ray is shown to have recovered from the horror and has even created a new life for himself. He incessantly states that he was not a pedophile, explaining again and again that he had loved Una.  Audiences are made to consider the humanity in Ray’s character and that, however human he was made out to be, it did not deny the fact the wrongness of what he had done.

Mikkie Bradshaw–Volante portrays the grown Una and how her past has come to shape not just her personality but her life. It is very timely to see how society is also, if not more, damaging to victims of abuse. It begs the question, if society hadn’t pegged the relationship as abuse would it have been just as damaging to the characters? Would it have been better for them to believe that they had shared a real love?

The play, directed by Topper Fabregas, takes you into a deep introspection of a relationship between two people caught in a horrible love story.

Have you seen the play? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!






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