Saturday, April 1

Subdural Hematoma – Salford Arts Theatre

Eleanor May Blackburn plays Eleanor May Blackburn in ‘Subdural Hematoma’, a one-act play that appears to draw inspiration from Eleanor’s own experiences recovering from a brain injury. In doing so, she utilises solo verbatim, audio, and physical theatre to share with her audience the many ups and downs of recovering in hospital.

Central to Eleanor’s recovery are her family and friends. With poignancy and insight, she notes that as hard as recovering from a brain injury was for her, it was just as hard for those around her. The moments of Harry Potter tales read aloud by her father added fun and universality. While, her mother’s voice, read as diary entries chronicling Eleanor’s recovery, helped the audience visualise Eleanor’s stay in hospital and feel the passage of time. Audio recordings from her family, and other subdural hematoma patients, are punctuated by the many thoughts and feelings which Eleanor could not verbalise at the time. The simplicity of physical movement, juxtaposed with the audio narrative describing Eleanor’s inability to speak, move, and even go to the toilet, is very thought provoking.

The play makes excellent use of minimal props and staging. The placement of personal objects onstage which are used over the course of the play is also intriguing, as they give the audience a physical representation of aspects of her story. Similarly, the use of a mask represents the barrier between her and her family while she is unable to communicate. Lighting is also imaginatively used to transport the audience into Eleanor’s frame of mind throughout her internal exploration of her identity. The play lacks incident: it is for the most part one long monologue with events being told rather than shown, and it is more a representation of feeling than action.

Undoubtedly, ‘Subdural Hematoma’ is a brave piece tackled with gusto and uses simple staging and props effectively. At times insightful, the play offers the viewer an opportunity to hear about the power of positive thinking and affirmation to overcoming adversity, as Eleanor tells her story about her subdural hematoma.

Reviewer: Amanda Hodgson

Reviewed: 3rd September 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★