Unity Theatre, Liverpool
February 24 – February 25
Author: Hattie Naylor
Director: Mark Espiner & Dan Jones
Producer: Sound & Fury
Cast: John Mackay
Running Time: 1 hr 25
A play concerning the degeneration of an eminent astronomer’s eyesight through Retinitis Pigmentosa – most often referred to as Tunnel Vision, no matter how varied the condition can be – might not seem to be the most entertaining of nights out. Yet, when a beautifully crafted script is enacted, in the semi-dark by a single actor of such sublime skill then Going Dark becomes not only a supremely emotional experience, it becomes something that will live in the memory for a very long time.
Sound & Fury brought us the truly remarkable Kursk in 2010 and, here, they have underlined their ability to engage their audiences in a production from the outset by imbuing the piece with an atmosphere that is almost tangible. Of course, as they say, the story is the thing and with Going Dark no stone has been left unturned by Hattie Naylor so that the plight of Max, the stricken scientist who also suffers hallucinations brought on by the contributory Charles Bonnet syndrome that forces the brain to create images the eyes can no longer see, really shines without ever forcing the message it expounds down the audiences throat.
Yet, no matter how great the script – which Naylor’s clearly is – it needs an actor to carry it out and what a superb job John Mackay does of playing Max. The seven stages of grief - denial, pain, anger, depression, hope, reconstruction and acceptance – are all exquisitely portrayed, with Mackay using the taped voice of his six year-old “son”, Leo, as a perfect a perfect projection for what it is he – and many others – go through when stricken by this horrible disease.
Never preaching but, nevertheless, always relevant and important, Going Dark promises a night of tears, smiles, exuberance and feeling that is extremely difficult to beat.