Blind Man's Song

Thu 6th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Julia Pritchard

at 08:57 on 9th Aug 2015

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Blind Man’s Song is a moment of calm amongst the wild commotion of the Edinburgh Fringe. Presented by Theatre Re, it tells the story of a blind man who uses his music to fantasise about his younger self in a story of love and longing.

Yet, there are twists in its story-telling conventions that make it a more distinct piece. Firstly, pairing with the lead character’s blindness, the lovers’ faces are covered by white cloth which, although quite disturbing when they first appear, soon becomes a beautiful metaphor for the lack of need for sight to be able to see and feel desires and fears.

It is then also told entirely through the medium of mime and physical theatre. I think it’s fair to say that when most people think of mime, they picture a white-faced man in a stripy t-shirt acting out his attempt to escape an imaginary box. This show however, could not be further from that trivial stereotype, completely reverting the theatrical genre to one of sincerity, and true emotion. The performance could almost be called dance it was so heavily physical, and with movements and choreography so fluid, rhythmic and at points, mesmerising, creator Guillaume Pigé must be praised.

The elimination of speech in the piece gives the show’s soundtrack the opportunity to shine through. Alex Judd, who takes on the role of the Blind Man but also violinist, pianist and controller of the soundboard, composed the gentle refrains that accompany the love story. The melody remains simple in its purest form, using only a few notes, but manages to stay very serene and soothing throughout even when more instruments and faster speeds are layered into it to create moments of tension. Moments in the music that I feel were necessary; to lift the production from the monotony it drifts into on occasion.

There are key, touching moments that made up for this, however. The chance meeting that sparks the entire fantasy is one of these, with the actors replaying it over and over in perfect and accurate slow motion and ‘rewind’ style, showing the audience how one small thing can spark a whole world of imagination. A powerful message, I hope you will agree.

Due to the heavy level of physicality and absence of speech, I did struggle to get to grips with what was going on at first. But after a while, I realised that this was the whole point. The show’s focus is not on what you can see physically in front of you, but on the ability to communicate, feel and see a whole world through the power of imagination, without the need for sight.

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Flo Layer

at 09:16 on 9th Aug 2015

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Sometimes it’s the stories without words that have the ability to move more than others. If you find yourself sat in Pleasance Dome at half past three, you can be sure that you will be swept away by a beautifully composed and elegant theatrical mime piece, entirely different to the majority of shows that you will find at the Fringe.

Theatre Re is a London based international ensemble creating work “on the edge of mime and theatre”. Yet their latest Edinburgh offering, Blind Man’s Song, is certainly far removed from the comic fumbling of the stereotypical black and white mime of times past.

In this piece, the intriguing medium of mime is met by the sort of quirky and intelligent style you find in art-house cinema. For a captivating hour the audience is encouraged to explore the imaginative possibilities and fantasies that are unlocked by the darkness behind closed or unseeing eyes.

The show whisks you away into a whimsical world of green handkerchiefs, bowler hats and spinning beds as a beautiful romance between a masked man and woman is gradually unfurled by the blind narrator and composer who sits at the piano.

Although the performers’ faces were obscured to become anonymous white blanks, it seemed that every lovelorn, pained or joyous expression was portrayed instead by their beautifully controlled and elegant movements. Each and every step was performed with calculated poise and the way that the couple moved together and around each other oozed chemistry.

Yet it must be said that the piece would be nothing without its incredible music - an original soundtrack composed and performed by Alex Judd. With just a keyboard, violin and a set of loop and echo peddles, Judd managed to create an overwhelming soundscape interspersed with soaring melodies and dramatic crescendos.

However, a particularly memorable scene featured the complete break-down of music and melody as the main character’s writhing contortions on centre stage were matched by the nauseating use of a piercing white noise.

Although it takes a little while to perhaps feel fully immersed by the story, Theatre Re’s delicate tale is sure to grab you by the heartstrings, spin you around and only let you go at the very end.

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