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Blindness review – blazing pandemic tale is brilliantly too close for comfort

Donmar Warehouse, London

José Saramago’s timely, sinister story of a world in chaos reopens the theatre after lockdown and is narrated with savage rage by Juliet Stevenson

After four months in darkness, the Donmar Warehouse has reopened its doors with Simon Stephens’s blazing adaptation of José Saramago’s sinister novel Blindness. This sound and light piece, with a brilliant narration by Juliet Stevenson, fed to the audience through headphones, is a deliciously unnerving experience.

The story is hardly an escape from the present moment: an infectious and instantaneous blindness spreads across the globe as an overnight pandemic, bringing the world to a fearful halt. Stephens’s precisely written adaptation pinpoints the current state of our nerves: when the infected are left to fend for themselves by a cruel, useless government, the eeriness becomes actually scary. Stevenson is the only person who can still see, and carries the weight of responsibility for bearing witness to the atrocities around her. As the story becomes one of filth and rot and monsters, her crisp narration fills with savage rage.

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