Archives for category: Blindness

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Currently at The Print Room (a very lovely and intimate theatre near Westbourne Grove that I have only just discovered), Molly Sweeney first appeared in 1994. Inspired by the playwright’s own cataract operations in 1992, the play consists of a series of monologues from three performers: Molly Sweeney (Dorothy Duff), who has been blind since 10 months of age, Molly’s husband Frank Sweeney (Ruairi Conaghan), and the surgeon Mr Rice (Stuart Graham), who operates on Molly in an attempt to restore her sight.

This is an intense piece, superbly acted, which explores not just the meaning of sight and vision and the disconnectedness between seeing and understanding, but also addresses issues around identity, how we define ourselves, how we allow others define us, and the tragic consequences that can ensue when we change who we are, not for our own sakes, but for those we love.

The play is primarily the story of Molly, but it is also the story of Frank, whose mission and obsession becomes the restoration of Molly’s sight, and of Mr Rice, whose interest in operating on Molly takes on a personal agenda that goes beyond his patient and her needs.

A microcosm of life itself, the three characters represent the world at large, the interconnectedness and conditionality of all our relationships, and how self-serving and destructive they can become.

Thought provoking stuff…

CQ

I missed this play first time round as it very quickly sold out. I was therefore determined to catch it during the current run. It was predictably wonderful.

The play, by Hattie Naylor in collaboration with Sound&Fury, is solo performed by John Mackay as Max, an astronomer who develops Retinitis Pigmentosa, which initially affects peripheral vision and eventually leads to blindness.

We are led into the auditorium in almost complete darkness, and the opening minutes of the play take place in pitch blackness. It was an extraordinary experience, and I have no idea how it was achieved. The darkness, the ‘non-seeing’ felt so absolute that whether you shut your eyes or kept them open, the experience was the same. I initially found this scary, even a little panicky, and almost claustrophic (it was a very packed auditorium), but when we were again immersed in complete darkness later in the play, it felt much less threatening

Perhaps at that point we had, at least to some extent, empathically entered Max’s increasingly dark world. As an astronomer, his life had centred around big cosmic questions, and the play contains many interesting thoughts on what considerations of the night sky might reveal about our place in the universe.
Sound&Fury’s first show, War Music, was staged in total darkness. The company’s work primarily focuses on the effects of sense deprivation. Thus, by immersing us, the audience, in this instance into blackness, the possibility of ‘seeing’ in a different way is created.
The two main questions at the core of Going Dark are ‘how did we get here?’ and ‘what in fact is our reality, our notion of existing?’

Big, and unanswerable, questions, and Going Dark does not attempt to provide the answers. However, the play, and Sound&Fury in general, powerfully challenge us to consider these imponderables with innovative, unique and exhilarating theatre.

CQ