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Review: Going Dark at Northern Stage

WE’RE going to be in complete darkness – so bags, coats and anything else people could trip over must be left at the door.

WE’RE going to be in complete darkness – so bags, coats and anything else people could trip over must be left at the door.

This is the “warning” as we take our seats, or rather stools arranged around a small central floor space in stage two, for the latest immersive theatre experience from Sound & Fury (the company which last year brought us the extraordinary Kursk) – an experience billed as 70 minutes long that started late and lasted nearer an hour and a half.

And that’s too long, especially without a comfy chair, for what is essentially a one-trick pony of a show, albeit a clever trick.

A one-man play played out in darkness is a deceptively simple idea – and one which must delight theatres keen to save on electricity bills – but its reality here is rather more complex, if not as challenging as I’d hoped.

We meet Max (John Mackay), who introduces himself as our narrator in a planetarium and whose soothing voice calms any fleeting feelings of panic as we’re plunged into complete darkness.

But total black-outs are, it turns out, soon alleviated by pin-pricks of stars and planets overhead as Max introduces us to the wonders of the universe, and by illuminated scenes of the single dad’s private life. As both his audience and observer – listening to his phone calls and the chatter with his bright spark son, who shares his love of the night skies – we’re party to the discovery he’s going blind.

Surround sounds, such as rain (particularly relaxing in those pitch black moments) and that disembodied voice of his son, help make up the picture we can’t see while Mackay gives an affecting performance as a man putting on a brave face as his world closes in.

Written by Hattie Naylor in collaboration with Sound & Fury, this is experimental theatre which teases the imagination.

It transfers to ARC in Stockton for a show tonight and tomorrow.

 
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