Going Dark, Young Vic, London
Monday 12 March 2012
It was Milan Kundera, I think, who said that an author should, as a
point of firm principle, avoid giving a character a job or a profession that is
too convenient to the thematic or symbolic intent of the work of art.
So, to take this to a reductio ad absurdum, a novel about the need to unbung one's emotional U-bend would not posit as its protagonist a hot shot from Dynorod. We should be grateful that writer Hattie Naylor and her collaborators -- the ace immersive theatre specialists, Sound&Fury -- have not taken this (generally well-founded) advice to heart.
There are two characters in Going Dark and the one "in vision" -- superlatively played here by John Mackay -- is a passionate astronomer who sometimes acts as narrator man at the city's planetarium. Normally, it might make one's heart sink a little to hear that such a figure succumbs to an eye condition that gradually destroys his sight. The idea of a man whose gaze has been trained on the so-called "corners" of the cosmos being driven to peer inside himself is all too susceptible to cliche. But not here in this quite wonderful piece of theatre. It manages to marry the best aspects of such dazzling text-based plays as Stoppard's Arcadia and Frayn's Copenhagen, which make profound use of science as metaphor, with state-of-the art deployment of theatre-as-atmosphere techniques.
The "action" takes place in a spectral environment where the lighting ranges from semi-darkness to black so dense it is like being wrapped in weightless fur. Our protagonist is also a single parent who has conversations with the taped voice of his little, inquiring, precocious son. It is heartbreaking when the latter pipes up uncomprehendingly to his deteriorating father: "Stop it dad. Stop staring at me Daddy." The piece contains mini-lectures on the nature of the universe, the illustrating material stencilled on the gloom. There is no fixed point in the universe, so where does that leave us? The father suffers from a syndrome whereby, starved of images by the eye, the brain adjusts by hallucinating. How does that affect our criteria for "reality? Such considerations -- with the engulfing notion that the universe itself is going dark -- turn this magnificent evening into a pulse-quickening poem.
To 24 March 020 7922 2922
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Interstellar: What we know about Christopher Nolan's new film so far
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth sent home in double firing
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Benedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours: 'I probably shouldn't be saying this'
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are