“If I can’t see I don’t want to live. It’s the darkness I fear not the death.”
I had no idea what to expect going into ‘Prism’. All I knew is that it featured a big name in the industry; Robert Lindsay. I was excited for his performance and the story the veteran actor was about to sweep me away on.
The play revolves around the old, tired and deteriorating Jack Cardiff, a former cinematographer, director and master of light. His family attempts to help him in his declining state through the hiring of a young helper in the form of Lucy. Their attempts to help and comfort Jack are only increasingly futile the more confused and forgetful Jack becomes due to his accelerating Dementia.
Robert Lindsay displays a powerhouse performance as Jack Cardiff. Never have I ever seen such a convincing portrayal of someone in such distress, confusion and general innocent ignorance due to memory loss in any kind of media, whether it be stage or screen. My heart wept for his fear and confusion and my soul sang when he found solace and comfort. He owned every inch of the stage and gave a performance any training actor can only dream to aspire to. So naturally did he fall into his character, that, at points, I felt as if I was watching a documentary on Jack Cardiff, seeing him towards the end of his life. The only reason I came out of it all was because my brain forced myself to take a step back and admire a master at work.
Victoria Blunt was exceptional as Lucy, Jack’s quiet, quirky and introverted carer, hired with the soul purpose of helping him finish his autobiography. Blunt was able to show a hesitance towards jack, yet also showed the softest of emotions, forcing us to plead for Jack to remember her and treat her with some form of respect. She embodied her character so well, that I immediately thought of a handful of people I know that behave and hold themselves exactly like she does, adding to the unencumbered sense of realism and believability this production displays.
Tara Fitzgerald plays Jack’s longing and heartbroken wife Nicola. She does very well with what she is given as, in the hands of someone less experienced, her character could have come off one-note or annoying, yet Fitzgerald finds the intricate details that make us so completely understand how devastating it must be to see a loved one fall apart. Her strongest moment comes when describing how it felt when her beloved husband no longer recognised her. A moment no one ever wants to have to experience; Fitzgerald convinces you she has, and it hits you hard.
Oliver Hembrough portrays Jack’s son Mason. His almost complete disregard for his father’s condition is portrayed effectively. Seeing that Mason’s only interest is to get the book finished, leading to a film, which may lead to money or opportunities for him turns the audience off the character a bit, but we come round to him again when we discover his true intentions and what he always craved from his father and colleagues.
Terry Johnson wrote and directed Prism. A man clearly in total control of the story he wanted to tell and the way he wanted to tell it, and with a strong understanding of the legend he wanted to pay homage to. The placement of the scenes, the back and forth between characters, the comedic moments, his attention to detail in every piece of direction and blocking all equates to a masterfully told story that we couldn’t be more attached to. Johnson allows his actors to move around in their environment and wallow in the moment, but none of it felt forced, out of place or false. The only thing letting him down was he didn’t quite trust his actors, his direction or his audience enough, and added in, almost cheesy, sound affects at an important moment to signify its importance. This took me out of it all slightly. However, the play being about a man who worked on old films and has a deep admiration from them, I can and do let this slide.
The play being about a master of light and the different colours produced from light after it enters a prism, Ben Ormerod did a fantastic job at lighting the action. The main scenes are cast under a bright yet subtle light that makes the scene feel like the set of a movie. During the play, Jack mentions how the prism creates different colours; cyan, purple and green, when light is cast through it, then these are put in the film that’s ran through the cameras. Ormerod uses these as focal points and for moments of importance that leave you breathless. He merges them together, literally making you think you are looking at weird, distorted film footage. Tim Shortall also includes this colour theme in his gorgeous set design, as the picture frames of famous actresses Cardiff has worked with turn into the colours produced from a prism and then into moving pictures themselves, giving the whole thing a feeling of classic movies and giving us a hint into Jack’s brilliant mind. The attention to detail from all the designers for this production is exceptional.
“It’s heavy for a book…light for a life.” Jack’s words ring heavy upon a stunned audience as he is handed the final manuscript of his life story put to paper. Johnson’s play is heavy and tackles a difficult issue, but does it with such poise and gentleness that we feel nothing but elation as we leave the theatre. This play shows us that we have dreams and aspirations we will always long to achieve. We may never achieve them all, but the journey we take trying to get there could fill a book with ten thousand pages and will leave behind quite a sensational story to tell.
Written by Sam Eastop.
‘Prism’ is currently playing at Capital Theatre’s Edinburgh King’s Theatre. Get tickets at: