The following is the copy of a letter I wrote to a teacher who asked me about the ideas in the play. It might be of interest to someone studying the script, or thinking of putting it on
Themes in the Play: Some Thoughts
The original impulse to write this play came when I was watching actors on a darkened stage at the rehearsals of one of my earlier works. There was something mysterious and evocative about the way they moved about in the dim light, and right then I started thinking about writing a show that made use of these qualities.
I had a number of ideas in my head. The most immediate was to explore how people would behave if there was no light. To me one of the most interesting aspects of the piece is the demands it places on the actors. It requires more than just staggering about with your hands in front of you. The absence of light determines how the characters respond to each other. A character won’t look directly at another – since our ears can’t pinpoint the precise position of another in the way the eyes can. And one can’t detect another approaching unless they make a noise.
Nor is there the same awareness of personal space, so a group of people will move in a very different configuration to a group of people who can see.To do this piece an actor has to think deeply about the physicality that goes with being sightless.
A major theme of the play is the commodification of the natural environment. If the circumstances are right, anything can become a commodity – even light. I’ve always been fascinated in the way in which humanity exploits the environment. And now I think about it we actually do even now, with solar panels to create electricity.
But of course in my play the value of light is created by it’s absence. The characters crave what they once took for granted but now no longer have. In our daily lives in the 21st Century we forget that sight is an essential tool for survival. It is the main sense our ancestors used for gathering food, and for detecting danger. And in my story the characters have a very difficult time getting enough to eat, and avoiding being killed.
The character Dave discovers a source of light and soon realises the power it gives him to dominate others. One, Beara, even allows himself to be enchained so that he can remain in the presence of light. Others give Dave – and Carlotta – everything of value they possess to ‘remain in light.’ And inevitably a hierarchy is created with Dave and his glowing beaker at the apex and other characters subordinate to him but controlling those below them. Exploitation of the environment leads to expoitation of other humans. This is the nature of capitalism – the social and political system in which we live.
The world in which the story takes place is one in which society has broken down. A catastrophic event has caused a radical change in the world order, and humanity is reduced to scavenging alone or in small groups, and protecting themselves as best they can. This is not a new scenario, it’s common to most narratives in the post-apocalypse genre. The difference with my play is the circumstances by which this disintegration of society comes about.
A final thought: the play is about faith. Sarah, who is perhaps the strongest person in the play, wills the light to return to the earth. I am an atheist. I do not believe in the supernatural. I need empirical evidence before I am willing to believesomething. But this is not, after all, a piece of realism. I call it my post-apocalyptic parable.
Although I’m not religious I am fascinated by those who have faith and their power to bring about change. History gives us many examples of men and women who have done unbelievable things through the strength of their faith. Who knows – perhaps it is possible for a woman of great spirit to make an elusive sun rise again above the earth!