In celebration of Pink Floyd’s prog-rock masterpiece Dark Side Of The Moon’s 40th Anniversary, the BBC commissioned the great Czech-English playwright Tom Stoppard to write a Radio play, “Darkside”, featuring the album. The result was broadcast in the UK last August and released as an album last month and it is plenty terrific.
While Darkside Of The Moon plays both in fore and background, Emily McCoy (Amaka Okafor) battles ethical conundrums and the destruction of the planet in philosophy class before being mistaken for a witch, and finally being taken over by voices all uin search of the “greater good”.
This being Stoppard there is even more going on as “thought experiments” come to live and Emily attempts to find what is good and what isn’t. She decides, not especially usefully, that we can’t learn what is good, we just know it. That is like saying we can’t learn maths, we just know it. In fact, some morals, like racism is bad that kinda stuff are in fact taught from parents to children.
Still, disagreements notwithstanding, multiple listening has the play work as separate tracks, or songs, it can be listened to out of context with enormous pleasure: he use of song means the tracks are like miniplays with the Dark Side Of The Moon songs as a sort of subconscious trigger for Stoppard’s moral conundrums.
Rufus Sewell and Bill Nighy and others add their voice to the radio play and the acting is pretty immaculate, and the words? Does anybody do litanies of moral outrage any better? Stoppard is one of the greats and “Darkside” is good Tom, not great, some of the ideas seem a little banal, the Juggler on the radio metaphor (if you can’t see him or see him how do you know he’s there?) is a touch on the obvious, although his meaning of life explanation isn’t all bad.
The album is here because the tracks can function as songs, without really knowing what’s happening, just as separate songs, great songs with great words, lots of jukes. “There is no plane, no pilot, it is a thought experiment…” Perhaps. but one with a heart.
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