As part of the annual Furnace Festival, Charley Miles’ first play, Blackthorn, came to the Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up Theatre.

Finalist for the 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn prize, Miles’ debut tells the story of the growing distance between two children born in a North Yorkshire village for a whole generation. Charlotte Bate plays “Her” while Harry Egan is “Him”, emulating children playing “Mummies and Daddies”, swiftly moving from innocent children den-building in the titular blackthorn to awkward teens and conflicted adults.

Director, Jacqui Honess-Martin opts for a minimalist empty set, utilising only sound effect (the buzz of honey bees, the chirp of birds and the excitement of a couple’s first dance at a wedding), lighting and characters metamorphosising into the third person to signpost location shifts.

Blackburn’s script captures the awkwardness of a being reunited after a long separation when a spark has been ignited. Blackthorn boasts strong believable leads in lifelike scenarios in its study of relationship developments over the decades as life changes and choices pull, strain and reshape the leads’ bond. Bound to each other through thoughts, memories and experience¸ the leads ably, naturalistically and convincingly portray a crumbling relationship, tested by distance, grief, inheritance and property development.

Billed as The Quarry Theatre with the intimacy of The Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-up serves up an intimate space for Blackthorn’s raw sixty-minute slice of realism, leaving us to contemplate how best to categorise our “friends”: “Friends for a reason, season or life?”

Blackthorn showed at The Leeds Playhouse from October 5 to 6,