FOR most of the past year the Oxford Playhouse has been dark – its doors locked and only entertainment available online.

This week the Beaumont Street theatre welcomed back audiences for its first post-lockdown show at the start of its Together Again season.

Blindness, which runs until Saturday, is a chilling and uncannily appropriate opening show.

Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens told the tale of life during a pandemic... when people start mysteriously losing their sight.

Taking the form of an immersive sound and light installation, much of the action took place in darkness.

After temperature checks in the foyer, the members of the small audience (the capacity is 36) were taken to the stage door and led-in to be seated beneath colour-changing tubular lighting on the stage. We were given headphones to wear and looking around at all the masked faces, the atmosphere felt unnerving from the outset. The “action” began with the voice of actress Juliet Stevenson narrating the story, adapted for the stage from Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago’s dystopian novel.

A taxi driver goes suddenly blind waiting at traffic lights and soon others are losing their sight.

Those infected are taken into quarantine as order breaks down and chaos reigns.

Stevenson’s character is a doctor’s wife, who feigns blindness to accompany her husband to an asylum where they are held in appalling and deteriorating conditions.

The actress’s delivery was captivating and chilling. The mood lighting by Jessica Hung Han Yan and the sound design by brothers Ben and Max Ringham combined to create a foreboding tension.

When we were suddenly plunged into darkness and Stevenson whispered in our ears, the whole audience must have felt she was standing right next to them.

I certainly did and it was a creepy sensation, perfect for the unfolding tale. What with the masks, the audience on stage and no actors in sight, it was a very different kind of theatre experience but one well worth having.

The show, which runs for 75 minutes with no interval and features flashing strobe lighting, continues to Saturday.