Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Penny Thoughts ’13—Darkness: A Radio Play (2013) ***

NR, 57 min.
Director: James Robinson
Writer: Tom Stoppard
Animation: Darren Dubicki
Cast: Amaka Okafor, Iwan Rheon, Rufus Sewell, Bill Nighy, Adrian Scarborough, Peter Marinker, Robert Blythe, Ben Crowe, Philippa Stanton

Last night, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary year of Pink Floyd’s masterpiece album “Dark Side of the Moon”, BBC Radio 2 premiered Tom Stoppard’s new radio play “Darkness”. Described as a philosophical comedy, the radio play incorporates Pink Floyd’s album into its performance and British animation studio Aardman Animations also created visuals to play along with it on the station’s website. Throughout most of the play’s running time the visuals run in a near five-minute loop until the play’s climax. You’ll definitely want to look at the last three minutes of visuals, however, which break the loop cycle and are the most interesting of the bunch.

According to Stoppard, he was first approached to write a coinciding play for the album back in 1973, when it was initially released. Having no idea how to approach such a project, it took nearly forty years before Stoppard could wrap his head around it. Now, it’s the listeners who must wrap their heads around it.

Stoppard doesn’t just rewrite the story told on the album into a play format, but rather he evokes the feelings of the music in a existential drama about the difference between real lives and made up ones. I suppose that’s one way to describe it, anyway. The story centers on The Boy, who is a theoretical thought created by a professor of ethics as an example of moral decision making for his students. While The Boy is just a “thought” to the professor, he is sacrificed in the example at the hands of a surreal superhero named Ethic’s Man. Then I suppose he must search for more purpose in his existence.

To tell the truth, the play is out there. Perhaps even a little more abstract than most of Pink Floyd’s music. It is interesting; I’ll give it that. It incorporates the music of “Dark Side” to great effect and should please any Floyd fan. I question to whom else it might appeal, however. Philosophy majors, surely. There is deep discussion about some of the great philosophers and how their theories apply to The Boy’s situation. Beyond stoners and deep thinkers, though, I’m not sure “Darkness” will have very long legs. I do envy the British for the fact that they still have a thriving radio culture that still produces thinking programs and radio art, as opposed to obnoxious complainers that make their living yelling into microphones and insulting people.

Below is a trailer for the project. Follow this link to listen to "Darkness" on BBC Radio 2

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