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The Blind
Published on Sunday, 12 August 2012
4

4 stars

Old College Quad (venue website)
Theatre
3-15 Aug, 9:00pm-10:00pm; 16-27 Aug, 10:30pm-11:30pm
Reviewed by Lynne Morris

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

Imagine the scenario; one of your favourite pieces of modern literature, by a Nobel Prize winning author no less, is turned into a “spectacular outdoor performance” and you are asked to review it. Do you accept? For many reasons I am relieved that I said yes. Without prior knowledge of Jose Saramago’s apocalyptic masterpiece, you are unlikely to have any idea what is going on, and so I enjoyed a night of physical theatre while also saving someone else a potentially frustrating task. For some, the beautiful chaos presented will satisfy without the need for further depth; for others its lack of context may confuse, disarm or at times offend.

So much of the joy of Saramago’s 1995 book, and this hour-long performance, is the subtext. In the book, the streams of unpunctuated, rambling text question civilisation as we know it. Tangibility is offered to frequently intangible concepts through the onslaught of an incurable blindness epidemic. This “white evil” takes over, and invites the audience to become omnipresent in observation of the subsequent breakdown of society. Victims of the same illness are stripped to their underwear, temporarily united and equal, and so the tale really begins.

Opening with a rather wonderful dance scene, power roles are quickly established before the piece descends into the anticipated and well-choreographed chaos. Morality, despair, violence and indeed sexual violence are among the expected issues that find their way into the performance, with moments of nudity that I not am entirely sure were necessary. However, while the choreography touches upon brilliance at points, the story itself seems confused, as the scenes of greatest impact are either repeated or last just a little too long.

The courtyard is the microcosm without structure or protection, as those sent to protect become the aggressor; represented here as the two masked watchmen, located atop an intimidating scaffold structure. Beneath them is a wind machine that provides the most dramatic input to the show. I must now offer a word of advice: do not stand directly in front of the scaffolding. While you’re tightly closing your eyes batting coloured foil from your face, you will be missing the most visually exciting part of the show. Stand or sit on the steps at the far side of the courtyard for the best views - a cold bottom will be your greatest concern.

Expect nudity, potentially offensive religious iconography and violence, as The KTO perform fearlessly aboard institutional beds using wooden poles as a form of communication and only means of defence. The doctor’s wife is distinguished throughout with her red dress and maracas, desperately battling the horrors that she has to both witness and endure. Enigmatic sound and lighting help to maintain the energy throughout – and particularly as the piece builds to its dramatic ending. The finale implies the same ending to the book, so it seems appropriate to close with the author’s own words: “I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, blind but seeing. Blind people who can see, but do not see

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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