This is review is of 'My Eyes Went Dark's 2015 run at the Finborough Theatre in London, where this porduction premiered with the exact same cast
Matthew Wilkinson’s thrilling new play is about a grieving man, suffering a deep, awful trauma. As a visceral, realistic exploration of whether a victim can and should forgive, it’s practically Greek on the tragedy scale.
Nikolai Koslov is an architect from Ossetia in Russia whose two children and wife have been killed in a plane crash. He calls it a crime, but everyone around him calls it an accident. As the trial drags on, he slowly realises that no-one will take responsibility for what has happened. Haunted by the image of the mangled bodies of his family, he desperately needs someone to apologise and face jail. He wants someone to blame. When he isn’t satisfied, he exacts his own revenge and in the process transforms himself from victim to perpetrator.
‘My Eyes Went Dark’ is a tragedy that looks at human beings’ inherent need to exact revenge. As in the ancient tragedies, Nikolai is on a singular path where nothing but punishment will satisfy him. But seeking it is the thing that ultimately destroys him. The play deftly and intelligently asks whether the Bible’s ‘an eye for an eye …’ can ever be something to live by.
Wilkinson’s dialogue is realistic and sparse and his scenes move fluidly into each other, slowly revealing Nikolai’s story. Thusita Jayasundera plays all the characters apart from Nikolai, including a councillor, family members and an official from the plane company. She is excellent, providing both humanity and a harsh calculated bureaucracy. Cal MacAninch’s Nikolai has an inner turmoil: externally he is a pillar of composure, almost too cool-headed for what has happened. But he manages to subtly betray the pain that is enveloping him.
Wilkinson also directs and the stage is bare apart from two chairs and a rig of several spotlights at either end of the space. The staging is simple but effective and Wilkinson builds up the tension and the story so it slowly heightens into a searing intensity. Max Pappenheim’s sound design – occasionally breaking into the roar of an airplane – is superb, reflecting the inner-noise of Nikolai’s mind. ‘My Eyes Went Dark’ is an affecting, impressive new play which makes a strong case for forgiveness.