Theatre is obviously classed as one of the arts, but it’s not often that a show comes along that you can class as art itself. Blind Man’s Song definitely falls into this category. This expressionistic piece of theatre draws some inspiration from the surrealist movement (one example being the bowler hat worn by the central character, reminiscent of Magritte’s famous ‘The Son of Man’), and is unlike anything I have seen before. Visually arresting, Theatre Re have built a wordless production that manages to be utterly compelling.
Beginning with just a bed & a piano on a completely black stage, a blind man (Alex Judd) emerges and the audience is taken on a journey through his imagination, triggered by him finding a green handkerchief on his person. As his mind starts to wander, and his senses begin to whir, his thoughts are brought to life through a mixture of dance, mime, acrobatics & illusion (Guillaume Pigé & Selma Roth), backed by an original score.
Judd’s score is simply extraordinary. He brings the soundscape to life himself, using a range of instruments – as well as anything else that can make a noise! Memorably a rhythmic loop is created by him scraping his stick across the floor & hitting the bed, and later on layering the sound of the bed’s casters to emulate a vehicle in motion. The music made by the more traditional instruments (piano & violin) is beautifully emotive and, at times, extremely raw & visceral. Impressive use is made of both, in particular the violin; I especially enjoyed the pizzicato sections for their wonderful sound & the sense of urgency that they create.
The only aspect of the sound that I can criticise is the feedback – a reaction to the blind man stumbling & falling. Whilst it is accurate to the experience of hitting yourself on the head, it’s rather loud & lengthy, making things a bit uncomfortable for too long.
It is hard to describe how something with no words can suggest so much, and create such a heartfelt story. Every accent in the music is augmented by each movement, with the two combining to make something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Some moments are truly breathtaking, as the tempo increases and the emotion builds. Pigé & Roth’s energy combined with Rudd’s masterful musicianship is most certainly a winning combination.
Katherine Graham’s wonderfully subtle lighting design really adds to the mood & synergy of Blind Man’s Song – including the oppressive darkness that frames much of the piece, giving the audience a way of understanding the character’s world.
My verdict? Simply put, it is art on a stage – an absolute treat for the senses & a fascinating insight into an unfamiliar world.
Blind Man’s Song runs at the Pleasance London until 15 May 2016. Tickets are available online and from the box office. The original score is available for £10 from the venue after the show.