Nearly 40 years after it premiered at the then-new Old Red Lion Theatre before transferring to the West End, Phil Young’s devised three-hander about one couple’s experience with blindness, Crystal Clear, returns next month as part of the fringe venue’s 40th-anniversary season. Time to get booking!
White Deer Theatre’s major new revival of Crystal Clear runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 23 July to 17 August 2019, with a press night on 25 July.
Richard – a young man with diabetes – is struggling. As his health deteriorates, so too do his feelings for long-term partner Jane. He looks for comfort in the calming company of Thomasina, a poised and enigmatic blind woman. After Richard loses his own sight, however, his relationships with the two women unravel: things collapse between him and Jane, and his intense but ill-fated connection with the serene Thomasina takes a tragic turn.
One act and three actors, Crystal Clear is a raw and humbling examination of loss and our attempts to cope with it, exploring both human selfishness and our fundamental need for connection. It is both a delicate study of experiences of blindness and a vicious picture of love undone by fear and self-destruction. When Richard turns blind, consumed with impotent rage, he and Thomasina must confront the fundamental question of how their love will survive in a world made for the sighted.
This brand-new production stars Gareth Kennerley as Richard, Rakhee Sharma as Jane and Gillian Dean, a visually impaired actor, as Thomasina. It’s directed by PJ Stanley and designed by Luke W Robson, with lighting by Peter Small.
Devised by director Phil Young through improvisation with the original cast – Anthony Allen, Philomena McDonagh and Diana Barrett – Crystal Clear premiered at the Old Red Lion in 1982 before transferring to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre in 1983 care of producer Robert Fox. Young went on to direct a television adaptation which aired on BBC One in 1988.
Now, coinciding with the Old Red Lion’s 40th year anniversary, this moving and important piece of theatre returns to the venue where it debuted. Young’s script is a fearless attempt to tackle difficult themes around blindness and disability. In reviving Crystal Clear, White Deer Theatre hope to crack open conversations around access and visual impairment, focussing on how society’s understanding of these issues has changed since the play’s first outing.
The team has worked closely with access consultant Amelia Cavallo, a blind performer, workshop facilitator, access consultant and academic who has advised on accessibility, including audio description, touch tours, set, lighting, and sound design throughout the process.
All performances of Crystal Clear will be accessible for visually impaired audience members, with audio description narrated live by the cast. This approach will make audio description an integral part of the performance – rather than something hidden behind a pair of headphones – creating a shared experience for sighted and visually impaired audiences. Pre-show touch tours will be available to access ticket holders for every performance.
In order to further engage the blind and partially sighted community around the contentious and much-discussed questions that the play raises, writers of all levels of experience will be offered the opportunity to attend the previews and write a rapid response. These response pieces, involving as many visually impaired creatives as possible, will be developed into short plays across ten days and performed in a scratch performance on Sunday 3 August 2019.
There will also be a post-show panel discussion on Tuesday 6 August 2019 looking at “Access and representation in theatre: successes and remaining challenges”, with additional topics planned for further into the run.
About White Deer Theatre
White Deer Theatre Ltd is a new theatre production company focusing on forgotten or rarely performed plays, re-imagined for modern audiences in intimate settings. It explores new approaches to staging and storytelling and seeks to support emerging talent and to promote equal opportunities and fair pay across the creative team and cast.
White Deer Theatre was founded in early 2018 by Pia-Ramona Wojtinnek, who wanted to combine her background in finance with her passion for theatre in order to support emerging talent and provide opportunities for innovative storytelling. Pia trained in acting through Scaffold State and attended courses in Directing at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, in Stage Management at LAMDA and in Producing by StageOne. She holds a PhD in Computer Science from Oxford University and works as a senior investment professional in London.
Gareth Kennerley (Richard) trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His theatre credits include War Horse (original cast member) and Saint Joan (both National Theatre); Fiddler on the Roof, War Horse and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (West End); The School for Scandal and Doctor Faustus (Greenwich Theatre); Under Milk Wood (Tricycle Theatre); 5 Guys Chillin’ (King’s Head Theatre); The Pendulum (Jermyn Street Theatre); House and Garden (Watermill Theatre); Sweeney Todd (Dundee Rep); Fiddler on the Roof (Sheffield Crucible); Carmen (Stephen Joseph Theatre); Richard II and The Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory); Stand up Diggers All (Pentabus); Pavement and Rush (Theatre West); King Lear (Creation Theatre); Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (TNT/ADG); Arden of Faversham (Skin and Bone); Compression (Write Now); Radio includes Tumanbay Series 1 and 2 (BBC Radio 4) and screen includes Retro. Gareth has also taken part in developmental workshops and rehearsed readings for the BAC, The Orange Tree Theatre and The National Theatre Studio.
Gillian Dean (Thomasina) trained at DeMontfort University, Leicester and graduated with a BA Honours degree in Contemporary Theatre. Before pursuing her professional acting career full-time in 2009, Gillian worked in arts management and as a freelance workshop facilitator, delivering workshops in devising and character development. Gillian’s credits include Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide: The Musical (Southbank Centre and Melbourne Comedy Festival), ITV Drama’s Home Fires and BBC Radio 4 Drama’s Blind School. Gillian is severely sight impaired.
Rakhee Sharma (Jane) graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2017. Whilst training she was awarded the Laurence Olivier Bursary. She made her professional stage debut playing Bella in the ‘Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca,’ written by Maxine Peake, directed by Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight, performed at the Hull Truck Theatre. Most recently, she performed in ‘Macbeth’ at The Royal National Theatre as Fleance and also understudied the Witches.
Crystal Clear runs from 23 July to 17 August 2019 at the Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ, with performances Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are priced £15.50-£17.50 (previews £12.50). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!