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Review: Blackout: Tales from Storm Desmond


Christmas in Lancaster before Storm Desmond
Christmas in Lancaster before Storm Desmond
Peter Clarke


The Dukes present a play inspired by the testaments of those affected by the major flooding of Lancaster, Carnforth and Morecambe in December 2015 following the torrential rains of storm Desmond.

This was a great night’s entertainment. It recounted the events following the flood and put these into a broader context by following the lives of a number of participants. There is Jack (Tristan Grant) and his father Paul (Peter Rylands) whose relationship started to unravel as Jack grew and sought his own independence. Chloe (Morgane Cozler) and Mel (Rhyanna Lord) are young women who meet in a residential care home and both try to rebuild relationships with their respective mothers. Finally there is Angela (Christine Mackie) who took over the baby shop in Lancaster only to see her business destroyed by the floods.

The set comprises a section of pavement. Glass marbles rolling down a guttering are cleverly used to provide the sight and sound of torrential rain, a simple but very effective contrivance, which punctuates each of the scenes.

After the major characters are introduced, the play explores the increasing tension in Lancaster as the incessant rain leads to flooding of the bus station, the absence of taxis and the closure of bridges across the river Lune. As the flooding gets worse a decision is made at 10:45pm to switch off electrical power to the region plunging thousands of people into darkness.

In the chaos that follows there are heroes. Cat Smith MP, clad in waders, tries to help. The Robert Gillow pub stays open offering food and drink. People start to respond to each other offering help as a Victorian Lancaster emerges from the facade of the twenty-first century city. However there are also villains as others make the most of the loss of alarms and CCTV cameras.

The play follows the fortune of Angela as she tries to protect the stock in her baby shop against the torrent of water. Mel and Chloe find themselves in Lancaster with no food and no-where to go leaving Mel contemplating suicide. Jack's father, a University lecturer finds himself powerless as the floods consume their home.

In the immediate aftermath generators are used to provide limited power in turn to groups of consumers 'It won't be on for long, plug everything in'. Thence the recovery starts as Angela comes to terms with the damage to her shop and Mel attempts to re-connects to her estranged mother.

This play succeeds both in giving real insight into the floods and also speaks of the resilience of the Lancastrian people. It is gripping, entertaining and often very funny.

The cast comprises two professional actors Christine Mackie and Peter Rylands both of whom will appear in all performances. The other characters are played by a very enthusiastic community cast who alternate in their depiction of principal characters. The script was developed by writer and actor Sarah McDonald-Hughes. She based the work on stories and interviews with local people who found themselves participants in the floods. Direction was by Alex Summers

A great night out.

Blackout: Tales from Storm Desmond is being performed at The Dukes from the 18th October to 3rd November 2017. 

To book tickets to see Blackout, visit

This review is based on the performance of 17th October 2017.