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Donmar Warehouse to temporarily reopen in August with sound installation starring Juliet Stevenson

Juliet Stevenson will star in a new piece adapted by Simon Stephens

Juliet Stevenson
© Trevor Leighton

Central London venue Donmar Warehouse will reopen temporarily for a socially distanced sound installation.

The piece, entitled Blindness, is adapted from José Saramago's novel by Simon Stephens and is directed by Walter Meierjohann.

Award-winning performer Juliet Stevenson will speak the text, which has sound design by Ben and Max Ringham, design by Lizzie Clachan, lighting by Jessica Hung Han Yun and production consultancy by Hannah Thompson.

The hour-long ticketed event will have a limited number of visitors from 3 to 22 August (there will be four performances per day), with audience members sat two metres apart. Visitors will listen on headphones, with the show featuring binaural sound design created by the two Ringhams.

All visitors will be required to wear a face covering throughout their visit (medical exemptions permitted) as will all Donmar staff.

Professor Thompson said: "The Donmar Warehouse has a strong track record in supporting visually impaired audiences to enjoy their productions. I am pleased that I have been invited to support the creative team to ensure the Blindness sound installation has accessibility built into the experience for all visitors.

"José Saramago's novel is a complex portrayal of blindness, and the Donmar is exploring how blindness can lead to different ways of being in the world and an appreciation that sight isn't as necessary for understanding as we may think. In fact this installation will show that blindness can lead to rich and immersive aesthetic experiences."

Artistic director Michael Longhurst said: "Reading Simon's version of Saramago's extraordinary allegory about a government's and society's response to a pandemic, I knew this was a story we had to tell immediately. With indoor live performance not yet permitted, and social distancing measures reducing capacity, I am proud that the Donmar has risen to the challenge of producing work at this time.

"This immersive sound installation makes a virtue of these restrictions inspiring our artists to find the apposite form for this story. Utilising Juliet Stevenson's astonishing talent as a recording artist, and the binaural wizardry of the Ringham Brothers, it re-centres and celebrates this event as a non-visual experience. Our theatre has lain empty for so long, so I am delighted we can gather there for a unique and accessible experience after the isolation of Covid-19.