I would have liked at least a little spoken word in Blind Man’s Song to help clarify exactly what he was feeling at any given moment. Perhaps I’m judging a book by its cover, so to speak, but just because the central character, played by Alex Judd (there are no character names) is blind, must he also be mute?
Even silent movies had speech cards, and although ballets are speechless, the sets and casts are large enough to present a clear narrative.
This piece of physical theatre is, at least, very imaginative – when it wants to be. One poor chap in the audience on the night I attended appeared to have been woken by his own snoring. Somewhat ironically, moments later, whom I will call Man (Guillaume Pigé) and Woman (Selma Roth) were themselves lying still on a bed, the only major prop apart from a guide cane for the visually impaired. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it since watching the live broadcast of the first series of Big Brother UK over breakfast, looking at ‘housemates’ still asleep having been up until very late the night before in deep discussion, putting the world to rights. I daresay that in this instance, the sleeping scene probably provides the performers with some much needed rest after the sheer physicality of some of the other scenes, but to watch people sleep as part of a theatre performance – well, it wasn’t exactly riveting viewing.
The music is sometimes far from pleasant on the ears, with one piece particularly jarring, and although this was particularly so, to signify some sort of inner torment, I couldn’t really follow why the audience was being made to hear such uncomfortable noise (for that is what it was) for so long: if the blind man’s music is meant to be representative of his imagination, then as far as this wall of continuous beeping is concerned, his imagination has much to answer for.
I suppose, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s not called ‘interpretive dance’ for nothing. For instance, there’s a lot of flopping about and falling on the floor. My guess is that it’s indicative of life’s many knockbacks, though I would have thought others may conclude it’s representative of letting go of something, or hanging onto something inherently unstable. There’s fun to be had working it all out, but I didn’t personally deduce much of a logical (or even illogical) storyline: it felt more to me like a series of unconnected sketches or scenes. While a fellow theatregoer didn’t think the ending was a happy one, I wasn’t so sure. I hope it’s not too ‘arty’ to assert that there’s beauty in ambiguity.
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I can’t in all honesty recommend this production to anyone who doesn’t already have a keen interest in physical theatre and/or mime performance. Those who are keen on this genre of live entertainment will, on balance, be thrilled by its sheer extremities. But if it’s coherent plot and character development you’re after, it’s not to be found here. Too confusing for my liking to enjoy it properly, there are some flashes of brilliance; although the cast work very hard, the production as a whole could be less fragmented.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Ahead of an international tour and following sell-out runs at the 2015 London International Mime Festival, Latitude and the Edinburgh Fringe, critically acclaimed Theatre Re (The Gambler, The Little Soldiers) presents a wordless tale about the power of imagination blending physical theatre, mime, illusions and a live musical score. “Superb… like a Beckett play designed by Magritte.” (Stage)
While a blind man walks around his room with unsteady steps a story of love, hope, courage and unquenchable vision unfolds.
Established in 2009, Theatre Re is a London-based international ensemble creating vibrant and emotional work on the edge of mime and theatre.
Blind Man’s Song at the Pleasance Theatre
Carpenters Mews, North Road , London, N7 9EF
Booking Until: 15th May 2016