Blinded by the Sun
Performed in the Unicorn Theatre 14 - 17 March 2007
by Stephen Poliakoff
Having seen the
original production of Poliakoff's "Blinded by the Sun" as a tender 2nd
year undergraduate chemistry student, I was looking forward to seeing
what the Abingdon Drama Club had made of the 1996 Critic's Circle award
The result is a very commendable effort with a real tour de force by Adam
Blake as Albie Golfar. In a very challenging role, he spends more than
75% of the play on the stage leading us through the twists and turns of
scientific fraud in a Northern Chemistry Department. The requirement for
high profile research in Chemistry departments is still a major issue
given the closure at Kings College London and Exeter Universities, and
the themes of the play are still important in modern day research. Albie,
a born administrator, expecting the sack from his post with only a 'competent'
publication record in the publish or perish academic environment is unexpectedly
made Head of Department. His possibly more worthy peers Elinor (Jill Calvert)
and Christopher, a suitably sneering Christopher Kendrick, wonder whether
their friend will give them any 'problems'. His mettle is soon tested
as Christopher makes a stunning new discovery, with Albie suspicious from
the off that his results might be fabricated.
Over the course of the denouement of the 'occurrence', which Poliakoff
denies us from seeing, Albie changes from an amiable 'hack' trying to
do the right thing to an omniscient pop-science peddling cynic, who has
profited himself directly from the publicity surrounding the affair. Adam
is ably supported by the rest of the cast, particularly by an adept performance
from Laura King as Joanne, who provides an external viewpoint to the geeky
world of scientists who is taken in with all those who 'saw what they
were shown', with appropriate expressions in all the right places as a
spurned love interest and PR supremo.
Did Christopher only have the desire to succeed without any real talent
using his notoriety to get on the lecture circuit he otherwise was not
party to before, or just desperate to get out of the 'dark tunnel of research'
so near his ultimate goal, or could he just not repeat his experiment?
Make your own mind up, it's worth a trip.
Dickon Champion - Research Scientist
I have to confess,
up front, that I am now not a fan of Stephen
Poliakoff's stage plays. Having been in one ('Sweet Panic') and now seen
another ('Blinded by the Sun'), I don't like his style. He makes
excessive and seemingly unnecessary use of bizarre props - models of
London buildings and a photo booth in one; a clutter of plastic evidence
bags with random contents and a virtual reality game in the other. He
takes a simple message and bludgeons it into the audience for two hours.
He doesn't know how to end a play. And he doesn't bother to make any of
his characters real people; their actions and dialogue are driven by
what their characters represent, not who they are. In 'Blinded by the
Sun' history student Joanne's immediate infatuation with science
lecturer Al is never explained, nor is the reason for her presence at
all the faculty's key meetings. What was the point of Charlie? Like the
character I played in 'Sweet Panic', his only function seemed to be to
bring random food onto the stage for no dramatic purpose.
But enough of that. I recognise that Poliakoff may indeed be a genius
and that I am simply missing the point. After all, the theatre was
packed on the Saturday night. More importantly, Abingdon Drama Club made
a good job of staging the show at the Unicorn Theatre.
Adam Blake was hardly off stage as Al, the 'relatively ungifted' head of
department and he carried the play well, having to be both character in
the drama and narrator of his own life. He was ably supported in this
central performance by Laura King, who was very believable and relaxed
as his sort-of girlfriend Joanne.
Al's two colleagues were the possibly fraudulent (but possibly not)
Christopher, played with appropriate conceit by Christopher Kendrick and
the 'once-renowned but now unable to finish her great project' Elinor,
played with aplomb by Jill Calvert. The remaining roles were ably played
by Keith Hales as the Professor, Malcolm Ross as mushy pea expert
Charlie and by Deborah Emmett and Louise Appleton as, respectively,
another faculty member and Christopher's wife.
It was a difficult, dated and challenging play. Director Christopher
Frost kept the action going well through some quite prop-intensive scene
changes and the simplistic setting worked well to assist this. Abingdon
Drama Club - 10 points. Stephen Poliakoff - nil points.