Dying Light is a beautiful production of a beautifully bittersweet play. As soon as the audience walked into the BT Studio to be greeted by a dimly lit stage, sparsely clad in the paraphernalia of a hospital waiting room, we knew the types of emotions we were about to be confronted by. Set in America, Dying Light tells the story of two teenage terminal cancer patients who meet in a cancer ward and fall in love, and explores the ways that hope and faith fill up the cracks in pain. “You always have to believe you’re gonna get better”, Jenny tells Tom, and the story’s arc explores how that strength of faith can tangibly play out in the face of extreme hardship
Both Charithra Chandran and Chris Dodsworth gave stunning performances as Jenny and Tom—Charithra’s consistent tears-on-cue were an impressive touch and were placed at key moments that allowed the play to feel continually raw, real and painful. With the production’s intimate and minimal stage setting, it was important for the actors to address the issue of maintaining the fourth wall and they achieved this expertly. The director, Lara Marks, did a wonderful job—and her choice of music was perfect for the atmosphere, as a few well-placed songs gave the play time to pause and space to breathe in such a heart-wrenching storyline.
The only noticeable first night hiccoughs were due to the Burton Taylor’s impressive blackout system, which left a few of the actors tripping over props during exits and entrances. Saying this, however, there was a gorgeous transition conducted in low light that saw Charithra and Chris change the set together—the audience watched as they built a home over hospital waiting room chairs and clinical hand sanitiser—and followed their attempt to build beauty out of their forced abrupt transition from childhood to adulthood.
In the end, this was a play about hope and faith, and both main characters enacted this necessary warmth beautifully. Their chemistry was lovely throughout, and the slow unravelling of their love story was poignantly demonstrated throughout the minutiae of Marks’ direction; the audience was warmly invited into their intimacy. The transition between emotionally draining monologues and witty quick-fire dialogue was tackled expertly—reminding the audience of the polyphonic way in which grief and love criss-cross over daily reality. The production placed an emphasis on the childish innocence present within both of the main characters, using tactful costumes and light-hearted interactions which resonated in the gravity of the story’s circumstances.
The tense-and-release aspect of the play was impressive, as the script moved from jokes about science fiction films to doubts about faith and the value of life with dizzying speed. The entire production felt like a collaborative project between the creative team and audience to navigate these questions, and the audience left having confronted the full range of emotions they conjure. This production is intimate, warm, and touching, and handled the huge topics it grappled with extreme sensitivity. “I love it all”, says Jenny, as she imagines the vastness of humanity and the miscellany of experience we call life—and I did. I loved it all.