This is a show about the universe, about space and time, and about how we relate to it. It is about the relationship between sight, imagination and understanding. It is also about going blind.
Enormous themes to be tackling in a tiny, black box, with the audience seated on four sides on stools, a minimal set, hardly any performance space, and one actor… Sound&Fury play with sound, surrounding the audience so that we are inside the planetarium where the lead character (John Mackay) teaches people about the stars, or inside the house where he lives with his six year-old son, Leo. Leo is never seen, but through aural trickery we hear him as if he was there – and in the darkness and closeness of the auditorium he could well be just out of sight. The child’s voiceover is perfect, and Mackay interacts convincingly with it.
The centrepiece of the tiny stage is a large and clever light box of some kind. It projects constellations onto the ceiling and we learn about the immensity of the universe and all that’s in it. In juxtaposition, it doubles as a table, where the father practices making Leo’s peanut butter sandwiches with a blindfold on, to be ready for the onset of the retinitis pigmentosa that is going to cost him his sight. Light is used to create the occasional striking or beautiful image – for example, a red and gold glowing ‘sun’ the size of a tennis ball is held up, a cluster of fairylights signify the pole star and the great plough, and light projected perfectly onto a piece of paper represents a newly developed photograph.
Hattie Naylor’s script is simple and effective, and at times the words, acting, sound and use of light and darkness come together to create real emotion, but it is rare. The effects are too subtle, the sound effects too quiet, the acting too understated. I left feeling I had visited a planetarium, rather than having stood and wondered at the stars.