By Caitlin Williams
None So Blind is not a play you should feel particularly comfortable watching. That is inherent in its premise — this is a play about pedophilia. At least, in part. When it comes down to it, None So Blind is not quite sure what it’s about, and misses the mark on making any real statement about sexual predation, art, or social alienation.
Written by Garreth Cruikshank and directed by Susan Jordan, this short production does have its moments of success. Cruikshank forces us, at least briefly, to confront the problematic nature of a number of our revered artists. We must ask ourselves how we approach the legacies of masterpieces when the masters behind them might have been problematic. We are told by Mr Sheperd (Martin Portus), the blind pedophile much of the story centres around, that boys in Ancient Athens were taught by men like him. There is an uncomfortable truth in this statement, but ultimately this moment is too fleeting.
Mr Sheperd is ultimately portrayed in too sympathetic a light for my liking. Jude (Russel Cronin) defends him, until the climax of the play, as a poor old man, likely the victim of a malicious rumour. While Scott (Thomas Burt) functions as the rational voice, insisting on the disgusting and impermissible nature of Sheperd’s acts. But even this is undermined when we discover that Scott himself has been the victim of pedophilia in what feels like a predictable and clichéd plot twist.
Portus, for his part, does an admirable job as Mr Sheperd, bringing together a balance of bumbling senility with a predatory undertone that keeps us engaged but weary. Cronin and Burt turn out solid performances, although neither truly shines. Dale Weseley Johnson-Green makes a brief, and potentially unnecessary, cameo as a teenager. The cameo’s only function is to serve as an expositional moment, and feels gratuitously graphic.
The writing lacks subtext, although Cruikshank does have an impressive command of language. Jordan’s directing is simple, but keeps the actors moving and fluid in an otherwise difficult space, unsuited to theatre. Jacinta Frizelle’s lighting and sound added intensity at key few moments, and lighting was used to effectively delineate spaces. The set is sparse, separated into two spaces. While placing Scott’s kitchen on the slightly raised platform at the end of the space allowed the action to physically move and keep things dynamic, it also felt cramped and awkward as the actors attempted to manoeuvre around a chair and tables.
The climax of the play does not come as much of a surprise. The play does build to that crucial moment, but then makes the mistake of adding a scene after that which is unnatural and unbelievable. Without giving away the plot, I will simply say that this play needs work, and needs to examine its core concepts. Is there any artistic merit in attempting to make an audience feel sympathy for a pedophile, or suggesting that vigilante justice is the answer to societal ills?
This is not a play that should be easy to watch — I know that. Nor should plays offer us two-dimensional, comfortable to consume issues and narratives. But there are certain things which are clear-cut as right and wrong, and we do further damage to victims stories when we attempt to equate theirs with the suffering of the abuser.
None So Blind is on at Erskineville Town Hall until the 28th of September.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.