Black Velvet by Christina Knight at Drayton Arms Theatre | Review

There are lots of reasons why younger people would find themselves bereaved – it is, after all, the natural order that someone’s parents would die before they do. Llew (Charles Ison) is tending to his late mother’s grave, having brought a fresh bunch of flowers. And they use real flowers in this production – it’s that time of year when I suffer the consequences if I don’t take a hayfever relief tablet in the morning before setting off for the day. (Yes, I took one.) I suppose some people do talk to those who have died, depending on one’s views on the matter: Llew likes to ‘tell’ (inverted commas mine) his mother about what’s been happening.

Black Velvet by Christina KnightStartled by Aoife (Christina Knight), who has herself in turn been freaked out by Llew (short for Llewellyn) talking to his dead mother, albeit in a cemetery, the awkwardness of an initial meeting between strangers never fully dissipates. By the end of the final scene, which takes place some weeks after the beginning of the first, it’s not clear where their new friendship will end up, and it’s left to the audience to speculate (or not) as to what happens next.

Aoife has her reasons for sleeping rough in a graveyard (I would tell you what they are, but it would be giving too much away), and there are plenty of laughs, despite the curious setting for a comedy play. The rapid delivery of dialogue by both characters on occasion is indicative of rambling minds, but the streams of consciousness (scripted though they were) provided some insight into their states of mind. The irony of them finding solace in a quiet place, and yet talking so much, isn’t lost on either character.

Not having met one another before, the characters are on the same page as the audience, and in the continuing conversation, more is uncovered about Aoife and Llew’s backstories. Aoife is seventeen, which credibly rules out their new-found camaraderie blossoming into something else. Their personalities are markedly different – she comes across as infinitely more carefree than he does – but some common ground is eventually found when Llew’s cat goes missing.

There are some reflective moments, and the efforts made by both parties to keep communication lines open is refreshing in a world where it’s all too easy to ‘block’ those with whom we disagree, whether on social media or offline, or both. A delightful show which treats grief and depression with gentle humour and much sensitivity.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

‘Wishes are they? You know I never really liked flowers for graves. When they wilt they just serve as this morbid reflection of death – as if this place need any more of that… I like them as wishes better.’

When Llew arrives at the graveyard with flowers for his Mum, the last thing he expects to find is a feisty, possibly feral girl, hijacking his night. Llew can’t stand her cynicism and Aoife thinks he’s an eejit, but the two are apparently stuck with each other, with nothing in common but grief.

Black Velvet is as heart-warming and it is heart-wrenching – a dark comedy about time moving forward when it feels like everything should stop.

Drayton Arms Theatre
153 Old Brompton Road
London, SW5 0LJ
https://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/

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