People have different ways of coping with grief. Nikolai Koslov, in Matthew Wilkinson’s powerful two-hander, My Eyes Went Dark, is consumed with rage, guilt and pain.
His is the human face of tragedy behind a public disaster caused by corporate negligence. An air crash kills 148 passengers, including Koslov’s wife and two young children and, horrifically, it is he who finds, among the devastation, the broken bodies of his family.
It is later revealed that an over-worked air traffic controller was to blame, sending two planes on a collision course.
Inspired by real events, this riveting, dark and intense drama, which opened Thursday night at London’s endangered Finborough Theatre, probes how one man copes with loss and blame, and asks what is the right response to crime and punishment.
Interestingly 10 per cent of any profits from the production’s run will go to The Forgiveness Project, a UK based charity that uses storytelling to promote forgiveness and reconciliation.
Cal MacAninch is mesmerising as the anguished Koslov. The play opens with the actor, smartly dressed in black suit and white shirt, reaching his slim fingers up to something unseen, his eyes are moist and pain is etched on his face.
Moments later he is cradling a body as a rescuer tries to help. Already we see his outward emotions shutting down and an inner rage taking its hold.
It is a heart-breaking story, told in a quick-fire series of scenes between MacAninch and the versatile Thusitha Jayasundera, who plays (quite wonderfully) everyone else in the story – from an eight-year-old boy who knew his son, to his distraught sister-in-law, a therapist, a lawyer, a corporate suit and a pair of wives.
Koslov is out to avenge his family’s deaths and demands justice. Trapped in his grief, and unable to get on with his life, the architect either spends his time haunting the cemetery, polishing the family’s headstone, or pursuing those responsible for the disaster.
“I just want him to say sorry,” says the distressed father. But when no apology is made Koslov takes a terrible revenge which results in the story being turned on its head.
It looks like becoming a perpetual cycle of pain for those caught up in the tragedy but one which can be broken with a simple phone-call.
MacAninch is a study in controlled emotion with his steely eyes doing most of the work. Koslov’s sorrow becomes an obsession with him radiating a blinding hatred for those responsible while remaining icy and composed.
Later it’s suggested that the trauma of the disaster sent him over the edge with possible PTSD. He’s not entirely rational. He is single-minded and driven to the point of madness. Its spell-binding to watch.
Jayasundera’s performance is fascinating. She beautifully captures the innocence and naivety of a young boy then, in the blink of an eye, is asking the wretched father searching questions about the motivation behind his terrible actions, or hysterically trying to come to terms with her sister’s death and comforting the husband left behind.
Superbly acted, this bleak, immensely moving and emotional drama is, at times, distressing and deeply touching with shocking images created out of nothing more than our imagination.
Even though there was nothing there, parents will feel his pain as Koslov gently cradles his daughter’s body, mindful to smooth down her clothes and make sure she was secure in his arms.
My Eyes Went Dark – utterly unmissable.
It plays at the Finborough Theatre until September 19.
My Eyes Went Dark
Matthew Wilkinson’s dark and intense revenge drama, My Eyes Went Dark, sees Cal MacAninch give an outstanding performance as a father haunted by tragedy while Thusitha Jayasundera succeeds in bringing to life a cast of diverse characters.