Returning to London’s Old Red Lion Theatre, where it premiered in 1982, Phil Young’s Crystal Clear is an introspective examination of life and relationships from the perspective of the visually impaired. The story follows satisfyingly flawed diabetic art dealer Richard, caught in the middle of a love triangle when a sudden progression of his illness renders him blind.
Though Young’s script is laced with revealing detail and intimate, often erotic passages exploring sex, sensation and emotional connection, the writing often feels overwrought, its character’s confrontations forced and cliché.
Sensitively reflecting the subject matter, every performance is audio-described live by the cast, with PJ Stanley’s direction zeroing in on key gestures and evocative pauses.
As Richard, Gareth Kennerley puts on a front of sophisticated detachment that soon collapses into misdirected cruelty. Selfish and privileged, he’s shaken to the core when faced with the unfairness of his situation, lashing out at the women around him. Gillian Dean is a striking counterpoint as his visually impaired lover Thomasina, her every word and movement thoughtful, guarded and precise.
An understated lighting design by Peter Small plays with shadow and light, keeping the house brightly lit for the most part to create a sense that the audience is intruding voyeuristically on private scenes of tenderness or suffering. As the production wears on, the interludes of darkness seem longer, focusing the attention on what little light remains, the warm glow of lamps scattered around the space or an amber shaft of streetlight through a window.