I’ll be honest – I had mixed feelings going in to Theatre Re’s Blind Man’s Song last night. On the one hand, I was looking forward to something a bit different. On the other, as a general rule I like my theatre with words – the more the better.
There are no words in Blind Man’s Song. But as it turns out, none are needed. The show uses a combination of mime, dance, sound, illusion and original music to tell a moving and surprisingly powerful tale of love and loss, which is accessible enough to follow what’s going on but still leaves room for each individual to interpret it in their own way. The main character, a blind musician (Alex Judd), leads us on a journey into the dream-like world of his own memory (or is it imagination…?), in which a chance encounter between two strangers is just the start of the story.
Two mannequin-like figures (Guillaume Pigé and Selma Roth), their faces covered, bring this world to life while the musician plays. In the absence of facial expressions, it’s the music and movement that convey the emotion of the piece – and in doing so reveal how much it’s possible to share without words. The combination is so evocative that we can feel the joy, passion, rage and grief of all three characters, as the music skips, swells and storms around them.
Said music is all original composition for violin and piano by Alex Judd, making effective use of the loop pedal to create layers and waves of sound. A simple theme, picked out with one finger on the piano, is repeated throughout the show, finally taking its place at the heart of the blind man’s song for the spine-tingling finale. Meanwhile, in harsh contrast, discordant sound effects – a rattle of metal against metal, a loud feedback tone – interrupt to break the spell and go on just long enough to make us uncomfortable, in a reflection of the musician’s own internal struggle.
The show was conceived and directed by Guillaume Pigé, one of the faceless figures who cover the stage with a fluid grace, at times in slow motion and at others with surprising speed. There’s creative use of the sparsely furnished set; I particularly enjoyed the conversion of the bed into a train. Like the performers, the bed and the piano are rarely still for long, giving the piece a feeling of perpetual motion and urgency.
Blind Man’s Song is proof, for me at least, that sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone; I left the Pleasance feeling genuinely moved by the beauty of the story, music and performance. Who needs words?
Blind Man’s Song is at the Pleasance until 15th May.