Blind Man’s Song, Pleasance Theatre, review: ‘Wonderfully tender but loses momentum’

Alex Judd as the blind man in Blind Man's Song. Picture: Richard Davenport

Alex Judd as the blind man in Blind Man's Song. Picture: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport

A very dark stage, a piano, a double bed.

A blind man appears in a long shabby coat, Derby hat, chest-high cane, tiny dark glasses. The noises he makes as he walks across the stage are grossly amplified. We see, he hears. Our world of light is his world of sound.

He falls asleep and dreams. And so begins a strange, disturbing love story acted out by two other characters – both shabbily dressed, both masked with head enveloping mesh. The blind man is played by Alex Judd and, for most of the hour-long work he plays an electric piano or violin, both hooked up to a repeat loop machine. His music reminds one of Glass and John Adams but with perhaps a little less ambition.

The work was conceived by Guillaume Pigé who, with Selma Roth, play the masked pair. An intensely physical performance they have worked hard to produce a world that makes sense of the dreams of a blind person. Their movement is intensely physical, but not stilted or restricted and at times its wonderfully tender.

At the start of their story, they bump into each other in the street. For a blind man, that collision is the crucial moment of contact: before the physical touch, there was no awareness of the other person. For the sighted it is the visual presence of the person they collide with and, to emphasise the different role of the senses, the scene is played again and again like rewinding and fast forwarding a video source. For a piece so heavily dependent on sound, it was unforgivable that the space was leaking in so much outside noise: ironically distracting, this must be sorted. The stagecraft and design were excellent and the choice of horizontal lighting and slow moving mist as a backdrop was inspired. A really interesting work, played with some humour which rather lost its momentum towards the end.

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Blind Man’s Song is at the Pleasance Theatre.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

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