Get our free email newsletter with just one click

You Stupid Darkness! review at Theatre Royal, Plymouth – ‘unflinchingly truthful’

Lydia Larson in You Stupid Darkness. Photo: Matt Austin
by -

Life has a way of carrying on, even in the face of catastrophe. With the world quietly coming to an end offstage, You Stupid Darkness sees four volunteers clinging to hope as they run a Samaritans-style emotional support helpline.

Playwright Sam Steiner has a knack for using offbeat stories to explore pressing issues – his previous play, Kanye the First, was similarly audacious, a surreal and searching modern fable. Here, though, there’s even less dramatic drive, with what little plot there is developing through a series of delicate, disjointed character sketches, some tender, some bleak, and many desperately funny.

It feels more like a collection of poems than a play, a work of extraordinary observation and overflowing empathy that’s given plenty of space to breathe by director James Grieve’s measured staging. Precise comic pauses and eloquent nonverbal interactions add depth to the already rich text, while the uniformly excellent cast wring emotional truthfulness out of every line.

Becci Gemmell is all brittle optimism as heavily-pregnant coordinator Frances, her desperate determination counterbalanced by David Carlyle’s caller-turned-volunteer Jon, who stalks the crumbling office doling out advice and flawless deadpan pessimism.

Meanwhile, Peter Small’s moody lighting design becomes almost another character in itself, with abrupt blackouts, flickers, and indefinably ominous psychedelic glows establishing an unsettling atmosphere of slow decay.

Transcending its flaws, this is a moving, original, and ultimately hopeful production, which neatly captures and crystalizes the unspoken but all-pervasive undercurrent of creeping dread that defines our current moment.


We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Sam Steiner’s brilliantly realised, unflinchingly truthful mid-apocalyptic comedy