A 22nd-floor penthouse. Lucia (Lanna Joffrey), a successful, mature, businesswoman brings Angel (Samuel Brewer) in to spend the night. Immediately we see that Lucia has second thoughts about being there and see her confidence dissipate. The question is, what was she planning in the first place..? Written by Paloma Pedrero – Spain’s most prolific playwright in the 21st century – and directed by Simone Coxall, The Eyes Of The Night makes its UK premiere at the Cervantes Theatre in London.
The initial set-up is reminiscent of Tennessee Williams’ The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone and Sweet Bird of Youth, where the majority of the play takes place between a mature woman and younger man in a bedroom. Except the bedroom is never a sanctuary and the revelations are seldom about the couple themselves.
One of the first things that we notice about Angel is that he is no one’s charity case or ‘victim’. Self-assured, arguably arrogant, Angel is forthright and wondering why after being coaxed to the penthouse why Lucia is preoccupied with making ‘small talk’. However, with Angel revealing he’s anything but docile, perhaps this is a catalyst for Lucia questioning the wisdom of her choice.
Fear is one of the many themes that runs through the play. It’s out of fear of rejection that Lucia picks Angel in the first place because (she thinks) he won’t have any aversions to her age. Also, perhaps at a subliminal level, she assumes he would be compliant and not in the least bit dangerous.
Joffrey’s Lucia in her own way knows the ways of the world, but has the same primary fear as Angel – to not be in control. For her, that involves the phobia of losing her sight – entirely rooted in her own extreme myopia which is correct by lenses. Similarly, Angel fears losing control by losing his ‘sight’ – not the vision that he’s already lost, but to not have his clarity of mind and equilibrium which alcohol would rob him of.
Catherine Boyle’s translation of Pedrero’s script fleshes out the subtext of the script, the idiosyncrasies of the Spanish language, and the timeless ‘dance’ between men and women that transcends international boundaries. Meanwhile, director Coxall relishes the opportunty to heighten the importance of the aural experience and rely on the absence of light for periods so the audience is simpatico with the characters’ perspective.
Angel makes the point of saying one doesn’t need eyesight to sense our reflection – the way the world treats you informs you how you’re perceived. That may be the case, but as the play points out, is this the same as one’s true identity?
Be that as it may, there is some poetic justice that it takes a blind man to make Lucia ‘open her eyes’ and ‘help her see’ with clarity what she was hiding from herself, and what is most important in life.
© Michael Davis 2019
The Eyes Of The Night runs at the Cervantes Theatre, London until 28th September. On Wednesdays and Thursdays the performnces are in Spanish (with Leyre Berrocal and Josema Gomez), and on Fridays and Saturdays in English.