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Crystal Clear: A Review

July 26, 2019

The stage at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington, where Crystal Clear is currently running, is the most intimate many audiences will ever have seen. The set is main character Richard’s (Gareth Kennerley) ‘bachelor pad’ flat and the audience sits in his living room- so close to the actors that they actually sit among us on Richard’s favourite armchair.

Richard has diabetes and has lost the sight in one eye. He has moved out of his long-term partner Jane’s (Rakhee Sharma) home into his flat- something that causes many arguments with Jane. One argument almost turns violent- at this point the audience would be forgiven for feeling too close to the action for comfort.

The audience knows that Richard’s real reason for living in the bachelor pad is Thomasina, (Gillian Dean) a very beautiful, completely blind woman with whom he has actual conversations. Thomasina seems far better suited to Richard than Jane ever does.

The serious and very important themes of the play (acceptance of disability and finding love as a disabled person) could have been explored for longer if the script had not overshadowed them by going into too much detail about Richard’s sexual encounters with both women. Jane makes no secret of the fact that she didn’t sleep ‘after we screwed’ and the scene in which Richard strips completely naked (thankfully with his back to the audience) so that Thomasina can ‘get to know him’ is, quite simply, unforgettable. At that point the audience feels more than a little uncomfortable about the intimacy of the stage and set.

The audience was expecting to see a love story between two disabled people and, at its heart, Crystal Clear is exactly that. Richard and Thomasina continue their relationship after Jane leaves Richard, who eventually becomes totally blind. His struggle to accept this is shown in flashes which feel too brief. In the most powerful scene of the play, Thomasina admits her love for Richard after she has considered leaving him because she feels her life would be easier with a sighted man. Unfortunately, this is where the play ends, so the very important question it raises (can two disabled people find lasting love with each other in a world not built for disability?) is not explored enough.

 

For disabled people today, it is to be hoped that the answer to that question is a positive one. Crystal Clear was written in the 1980s and Thomasina’s attitude to the question feels negative and slightly outdated.

 

Crystal Clear runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 17th August 2019.

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