It’s not until August that theatre in London shows any real signs of life with a number of upcoming initiatives including Fanny and Stella outside at the Eagle in Kennington and the New Normal Festival in Wandsworth. But leading the way is a socially distanced sound installation adapted by Simon Stephens, directed by Walter Meierjohan, voiced by Juliet Stevenson and with sound by those aural wizards, Ben and Max Ringham. Audiences experience the sound through headphones. The piece, about a city facing its own pandemic as the inhabitants are suddenly struck blind, is based on a novella by Jose Saramago who theatregoers will remember from the Gate’s delightful hit show, unknown Island. Many performances are already sold out but there is still some availability and it is good to see the Donmar stretching ideas about what constitutes theatre in an interesting way.
As the lights change at a major crossroads in a city in the heart of Europe a car grinds to a halt. Its driver can drive no more. Suddenly, without warning or cause, he has gone blind. Within hours it is clear that this is a blindness like no other. This blindness is infectious. Within days an epidemic of blindness has spread through the city. The government tries to quarantine the contagion by herding the newly blind people into an empty asylum. But their attempts are futile. The city is in panic. Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens has adapted Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago’s dystopian novel Blindness as a sound installation for the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Walter Meierjohann with immersive binaural sound design by Ben and Max Ringham. Juliet Stevenson voices the Storyteller/Doctor’s wife in this gripping story of the rise and, ultimately, profoundly hopeful end of an unimaginable global pandemic. This hour-long ticketed installation for a limited number of visitors will run four times a day, with seating arranged 2m apart in accordance with social distancing guidelines in a transformed Donmar Warehouse. Visitors will listen on headphones as the narrative unfolds around them. Audio-described content will be available at every installation from Friday 7 August, and there will be a captioned installation at 2pm on Saturday 15 August. An audio-described or captioned digital version of the installation will also be available for purchase for those not able to attend in person.