Theatre review: Going Dark at the Young Vic

Review of experimental theatre company Sound&Fury’s new work Going Dark, a play which leaves its audience in the dark to explore blindness

� Essentially stripping your audience of their sight is a bold approach to experimental theatre, but in this case it is one that works.

In danger of treading on the toes of the kind of astronomy classes offered up at the Royal Observatory, Going Dark leads you on a tour of the solar system in a near pitch black room. But interweaved among the origins of Andromeda and the Milky Way is the touching relationship of the narrator – astronomer Max, played by John Mackay, the only actor in the show – and his son Leo, who only appears through a recorded voice. Their bond is made even more emotionally charged when we learn that Max is slowly going blind and is having to battle daily hallucinations while still fighting to keep his son.

Sound&Fury has done well to immerse their audience into the story by staging a lot of the action in total darkness – even mobile phones are strictly forbidden from the theatre for fear of breaking the effect. And when you are able to see, it is only through dim lamps, making you painfully aware of the protagonist’s own looming blindness.

Mackay gives a touching portrayal of a man on the brink of losing both his career and his family, while the technical exploration of the solar system works well as a symbol for the unexplained twists and turns in life.

These two parallel stories also offer a potent lesson on global responsibility, especially when Max reminds us that “the universe itself is going blind”.

And provided the darkness doesn’t make you nod off – as it did for the man next to me – you will definitely come away more well-informed than when you went in.

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* Going Dark is showing at the Young Vic, The Cut, SE1, until March 24.