(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/13; Photo: Playgoers at the Donmar Warehouse for “Blindness,” a reimagining of José Saramago’s 1995 novel as a sound installation heard through headphones.Credit…Helen Maybanks; via Pam Green.)
The Donmar Warehouse is the first major playhouse in the city to reopen, with a socially distanced sound installation.
LONDON — Finally, some light in the darkness. The Donmar Warehouse has made stage history as the first playhouse here to open its doors to a paying public in the almost five months since the coronavirus lockdown began. Brave? Yes, and, even better, with a brilliant production.
The chosen title, running through Aug. 22, is a new and apposite adaptation of the Nobel laureate José Saramago’s 1995 novel, “Blindness.” The story of a society sent into free fall by a pandemic is having its premiere before socially distanced audiences that will find its message urgent.
Provocative, disturbing, yet with glimmers of hope near the end, this “Blindness” has been conceived by the Tony Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens and the director Walter Meierjohann as a sound installation heard via headphones. There are no actors present.
The result is a triumph, but possibly a challenge for Covid-weary listeners. Those wanting an escape from talk of plague must seek entertainment elsewhere. (Never fear, devotees of levity: There’s a musical version of the film “Sleepless in Seattle” scheduled to open here in September.)
“Blindness” is no ordinary theatrical experience, but then we live in extraordinary times. The audience lines up outside the venue, in the Covent Garden district, wearing masks and keeping distance. Inside, there is plenty of hand sanitizer, but no bar or playbills. The production is running four times a day, like a movie, enabling the Donmar to make up some of the revenue it’s losing by restricting numbers in the auditorium to about 20 percent of its usual capacity.