My Eyes Went Dark

My Eyes Went Dark takes us down into the abyss of overwhelming grief and denies us any chink of light. There is a stifling sense of claustrophobia in the air from the outset of this powerful piece written and directed by Matthew Wilkinson with astonishing economy – two chairs form the entire set. The play, reportedly inspired by real events, tells the story of Ossetian architect Nikolai Koslov (Cal MacAninch), who loses his wife and two children in a plane crash caused by the simple human error of a lone air traffic controller. Flatly unable to accept the death as an accident, Koslov transforms his inconsolable grief into a murderous rage at the errant employee.

It feels more like a show for the head than the gut. Enthralling and provocative nevertheless.

On one hand, the play compels us to think critically about a series of nigh-on impossible ethical questions on the proper response to suffering, and the nature of justice. However, Wilkinson simultaneously asks us to encounter the sickening realities of bodies suffering from this kind of emotional trauma, as we discover the grotesque physical symptoms – migraines, cramps, etc – that ravage Koslov. The performances are stellar throughout: MacAninch’s stoicism is commendably eerie, and the attention to detail exhibited by Thusitha Jayasundera (portraying an impressive range of characters) threatened to steal the show. Her performance as a baffled schoolmate of Koslov’s son was especially stirring.

As much as anything, however, this is a play about memory – the way in which such events are commemorated, the manner by which trauma begets trauma and denies any forward motion. This is where Wilkinson’s structural ingenuity comes into play. A surprising temporal leap in the final act, followed by a teasing chronological shift in the last scene makes the sense of being borne back into the past forcefully felt.

The starkness, however, somewhat detracts from the piece’s power. There is an oddly sterile quality: crisp suits, the economy of the lighting, even MacAninch’s sharp profile on the poster, all obstruct our insight into the messier aspects of grief. It feels more like a show for the head than the gut. Enthralling and provocative nevertheless.

Reviews by Joe Spence

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★★★
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Written and directed by Matthew Wilkinson. A thrilling modern tragedy about a Russian architect driven to revenge after losing his family in a plane crash. Cal MacAninch and Thusitha Jayasundera give electrifying performances in this searing new play about the human impulse to strike back. Inspired by real events. Nominated for three Off West End Theatre Awards.