Finborough Theatre, London – until 19 September 2015
“…If a country can’t protect the rights of its people, what can a man do? A man must stand up… A man must defend himself.” Matthew Wilkinson‘s My Eyes Went Dark is an extraordinary piece of work. It tells the story of man, Nikolai Koslov (played by Cal MacAninch), who loses his wife and two young children in a plane crash that occurred when two planes collide mid-air.
Grief stricken and utterly disconnected from the world without his family (“My life. As any family is the life of the individuals within it”), he seeks justice. This search begins immediately; as he is digesting the reality that his family is gone at the beginning of the play, he questions what happened, asking for an update on the flight recorders and attempting to coerce an explanation, of any sort, from the official he is speaking to.
This is a particularly striking characteristic of Koslov who, as a successful architect and family man, is probably used to drawing clear lines between events, ideas and thoughts, drawing out rational conclusions accordingly. He seems to be a rational being and a normal functioning one at that. This is best typified in professional settings, such as when he is giving an interview or operating in a work environment.
This two-hander also features an outstanding performance from Thusitha Jayasundera, who plays ten different characters to incredible effect.
Beautifully suited to the intimacy of the Finborough, the staging is simple; it features only two chairs. The sound design (Max Pappenheim) and lighting (Elliot Griggs) are flawless. Props are invisible but acted with such conviction that their physical absence is barely registered.
The performance lasts approximately ninety minutes and comprises an intense sequence of scenes, cutting back and forth over the span of five years, over three different countries. Throughout its course, a range of themes including commentaries on justice systems, corporate responsibility and politics are investigated and provide much for consideration.
What is incredibly powerful about My Eyes Went Dark is its ability to explore the complex and permanent effects of plane crashes. It is a tragedy that most of us are familiar with, blessedly, only through news reports that the media thrive on. The play however offers a stark reminder that the effects never leave those who have experienced loss and for whom so many questions are left unanswered.
Wilkinson, MacAnich and Jayasundera capture this tragedy perfectly and hauntingly.
Runs until 19th September
Guest Reviewer: Bhakti Gajjar