Nick Enright’s Blackrock is as riveting to read as it was to see in production. The play is based very loosely on a real event when a teenage girl was raped and murdered at a beach party.
Instead of focussing on the tragedy for the girl and her family, Blackrock looks at the effects on the community and the girl’s peer group. In the author’s note, Enright says: “the concern of the play was why any group of boys abuse any girl, and how they come to do it”.
Enright makes all the characters three-dimensional, capable of beauty and cruelty. The play’s protagonist, Jared, is convinced that the dead girl deserved it, that she was a “moll”. In an argument with his girlfriend Rachel there’s the following conversation:
JARED Ricko’s dead because some moll didn’t know the limits.
RACHEL You know she was a virgin?
RACHEL They told the world on TV. Tracy Warner was a virgin that night.
JARED Then why didn’t she act like one?
RACHEL How does a virgin act?
JARED People should act the way they are. Not dress down and look like a moll and dance like – a moll.
RACHEL She didn’t look like anything when I found her. She looked like everything had gone. Her body was twisted –
JARED Shut the fuck up.
I’ve included this as an example of what Enright does so well. Jared is a character for whom we’ve had a lot of sympathy. When he says the above, it’s not because he’s a bad person, it’s because he’s trying to justify his friends’ behaviour and also his own. His awful idea that girls who dress tartily deserve to be raped is one that’s overtly and covertly stated in far too many rape cases.
The only part of the play that doesn’t sit quite right for me is the inclusion of a thread that follows Jared’s mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer. Seeing the production years ago, and reading the playscript now, left me feeling that this doesn’t quite fit in the play. Although it gives Jared a chance to redeem himself with his mother, it’s one emotional scene too many.