Sound and Fury’s production of Going Dark, a bittersweet story about a planetarium narrator suffering from a degenerative eye condition, has transferred from the Young Vic to a venue you could call its spiritual home: the Science Museum.
The one-man play follows Max as he struggles to hold together his life as an enthusiastic star-gazer and single dad as his world literally fades into darkness. The audience is seated as if in a real planetarium, with Max using a laser pen to point out the swirling constellations projected onto the ceiling. Darkness becomes a tangible presence, with the lights cutting out, leaving the audience in an uncomfortable, inky blackness.
The planetarium scenes are intercut with conversations between Max and his precocious son Leo – a presence in voice only – who retreats behind his Thunderbirds toys as a way of shielding himself from the reality of his dad’s situation. Removing the audience’s power of sight is an effective way of exploring Max’s feelings of powerlessness and loss, and you feel for him as he tries to resist taking the situation out on those around him.
The effect is dampened somewhat by the fact they’re both pretty annoying; a little-too-perfect representation of an intellectual middle-class family unit. It’s all well and good listening to your own child harping on about blasting off to the moon but having to sit through someone else’s is slightly nauseating, fictional or otherwise.
The dramatic atmosphere created by the planetarium and the exceptionally good use of lighting, though, are just about enough to compensate – and being in the Science Museum without hordes of kids is a novelty in itself.
First published in City A.M.