Are you afraid of the dark? Creator-performers John Doucet and Manon St-Jules (under the direction of co-creator Julie Le Gal) explore théâtre sans lumières in their new piece aptly titled Darkness. The piece itself does not take place on the ‘mainstage’ in the Studio lobby of Arts Court, but, in fact, in a rather small closet or storage room next to the bathrooms down the hallway. Not recommended for anyone with aversions to small enclosed spaces, Darkness is strong in concept though the text is less than illuminating.
Part of Fresh Meat’s “In the Little Black Box” Series, Darkness is one of two shorter pieces happening in this tiny space that are in compliment to the other ten performances happening in the Studio lobby. Next week will feature 7 Minutes in Heaven where creator-performer Madeleine Boyes-Manseau will hand-pick (per show) her one audience member. Both of these performances bookend the mainstage acts and take place before the opening number, during intermission, and after the final show. Attendance is extremely limited in both cases so sign up early (or in the case of next weekend, strive to catch Boyes-Manseau’s eye)!
Darkness plays with sensory deprivation, specifically your sight (as you might have already surmised). As one of ten audience members you are lead into the space guided along using thick knotted ropes that (from what I could gather) form makeshift aisles for the spectators to fill out. Once the door closes the space is rendered pitch black and consequently our other senses become sharpened.
The piece has some good things going for it: the movement and placement of voices, the darkness itself, and the mysterious nature of the characters. However, the text leaves almost too much to the imagination and offers up little to no resolution or any explanation as to how or why the two characters are even there. If they are intended to be figures in a more Absurdist universe, then it might prove beneficial to develop the metaphorical imagery even further. Moreover, while the manipulation of sound is certainly good, I felt it could have been utilized a little better as a tool for shaping and creating space. In its current iteration Darkness doesn’t quite transcend beyond the storage closet’s four walls.
Overall, this piece has a lot of potential to be something really, really cool and thought-provoking. Theatre is often heavily dependent on visual aesthetics so it is definitely re-fresh-ing to take part in something that strips most people of their most dominant (or most relied upon) sense. Not only that but there’s also smell and touch (given the ropes) to consider incorporating along with the sound which would hugely affect the spectator’s experience of the piece as well. That being said, once you take away the visual elements the story becomes completely dependent on the text and if the text isn’t engaging you will have an audience that will spend 10 minutes trying to develop their night-vision instead.
Performed by John Doucet and Manon St-Jules
Directed by Julie Le Gal