at Warwick Arts Centre, Thursday 27th October 2011
Written for www.StageWon.co.uk
“We are all scattered stardust”. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful lines I’ve heard on stage in the past year. It encompasses perfectly what Sound&Fury’s stunning production of Going Dark is trying to say; that nothing is ever simply as it seems. Tom Espiner and Hattie Naylor, the co-creators and writers, use both emotion and science to make us question who we are and how we view the world around us. A simple monologue about space mingled with scenes between father and son creates an intellectually challenging and emotionally engaging night out.
When John Mackay enters the improvised studio space, he asks us to switch off our mobile phones for, during the show, there will be moments of complete darkness. We quickly realise this is said in character, as he welcomes us to his talk as curator of the planetarium, beginning a fascinating lecture on the cosmos. His talk continues for the next hour or so, but woven amongst this are scenes which show him being diagnosed with retinis pigmentosa. Discussions with the voice over of his child then show how he copes with this and reminds us of the importance of sight.
But it is the way in which this story is told which makes it so impressive. Just as in a real planetarium, images are projected onto a canopy to demonstrate points about constellations, while at other times this ‘projection table’ acts as a screen onto which images are displayed. It’s a wholly original idea and one which plays with associations with and uses of light. From corners of the room comes a child’s voice, playing with our imagination.
The production would be impossible without John Mackay’s strong performance, however. He is father and scientist, full of knowledge about the cosmos, yet completely igorant about his declining sight. He can create a close relationship with the audience at one point, and switch immediately to an intimate scene with his son.
Going Dark is one of those shows which ticks all the boxes; a great script, strong performance and an ingenious mode of storytelling. It looks internally and externally, looking at how we view humanity from outside and how we view the universe from earth. Sound&Fury are certainly ones to watch.