Presented by Donmar Warehouse
Reviewed 23 February 2022
The Adelaide Festival brings Blindness to town, taking over the Queens Theatre for the Australian premiere of the show.
Blindness is an immersive show based on the novel of the same name by José Saramago, which depicts the events following a blindness epidemic that spreads through a city. For the show guests are welcomed to the historic Queens Theatre and seated in pairs that sit facing different directions. Each guest is given a pair of headphones and in the seating arrangement the angles of sight create a strange sense devoid of the communal feeling of sitting in a crowd facing the same performance space.
The plot of the story is carried by the narrator (Juliet Stevenson) who speaks directly through the headphones to each guest. The narrator is the wife of the doctor who receives the first victims of the epidemic. The doctor succumbs to the affliction and results in them being bundled into the first of the quarantine wards. The wife lies about her blindness in order to be taken with her partner and from there she becomes the eyes to all the events occurring in the narrative and the guests assume the position of the doctor, stuck in location with only sound, the wife’s voice, and the occasional sudden white lights to guide them.
A lighting display is rigged to the ceiling and is integral to the sensations in the show as it varies from gentle, familiar colours of street lights, to when the system lowers and it’s just the person next to you and the occasional flashing bright light directly in front of you. It all teams together with the audio to create an, at times, intense experience and casts the surreal sensation of being isolated and further pushed into the position of a main character.
The audio and lighting work in Blindness is brilliant in its details. The flashes for movement and even the close breaths just behind the ears create multiple levels of sensations from terror of something unseen but heard in the distance to the comfort of having someone whisper close by to inform and protect the characters.
The voice character work from Stevenson is incredible. The movement that her performance carried through the narrative built all the colour needed to overcome the restrictions in vision.
This production is adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Walter Meierjohann. It is backed with sound design by Ben and Max Ringham, design by Lizzie Clachan, and lighting design by Jessica Hung Han Yun.
Blindness runs until 20th March and has many sessions times available throughout its running days.
Reviewed by Alex Dunkin
Venue: Queens Theatre, Corner Playhouse Lange & Gilles Arcade, Adelaide.
Season: 23rd February – 20th March 2022
Duration: 1hr 10mins
Rating out of 5: 5