Crystal Clear (Old Red Lion Theatre)

Posted: July 27, 2019 in Theatre

Devisor: Phil Young      Director: PJ Stanley


Phil Young, a one-time associate of Mike Leigh, devised the short play Crystal Clear in 1982 using improvisation techniques. It is hard to see why White Deer Theatre has opted to to revive such a stilted piece now, although not seeing is what it is all about.

The Old Red Lion Theatre has a cosier than usual feel, carpeted and with cushioned seating along all four walls. The whole play takes place in the cluttered flat of Richard (Gareth Kennerley), a picture dealer who is blind in one eye and suffers from type one diabetes. However, Richard’s luck at the beginning of the play is not all bad, as he has not one, but two girlfriends. 

The first to appear is Thomasina (Gillian Dean, whose own sight is severely impaired), a blind woman who needs to be guided around the flat to avoid tripping over the futon and various items, such as a tool box and Richard’s underpants, lying around on the floor. Voices of actors are heard describing movement on behalf of the visually impaired and this gives PJ Stanley’s production an air of worthiness, drawing good will from an audience which roots for the play to become better. It never does so.

Girlfriend number two is the belligerent Jane (Rakhee Sharma) who demands more of Richard’s time and gets furious when she finds an open copy of Penthouse lying around the flat. Suddenly, Richard is struck completely blind while bidding for a painting, causing his life and both relationships to go on a downward spiral. How will he remember where in his flat he has left his cigarettes or how much Scotch is left in the bottle?

In telling us what it is like to lose one’s sight, the play goes no further than stating the obvious and its conclusions are desperately depressing. The production has the forethought to provide an audio commentary for the benefit of the visually impaired, but maybe they would have appreciated notes of optimism and positivity in the play far more.

The actors, most notably Kennerley, perform their roles with intensity, but, repeatedly, they are defeated by some truly dreadful dialogue. Ultimately, it has to be acknowledged that it is not enough for a production to have worthy intentions if the play that it showcases is as dull and lacking credibility as this.

Performance date: 25 July 2019

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

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