at Old College Quad, Monday 13th August 2012
Post-apocalyptic theatre is hardly a new idea. If the idea of a dystopian future is your cup of tea, there’s always something floating about (I haven’t look comprehensively through the Fringe brochure, but I imagine there are quite a few here). The Blind follows in this vein, showing us the effects of a catastrophe which leaves millions blind, but though it doesn’t do much to change opinions of the genre, the presentation of this horrific world is one of beauty and wonder.
Teatr Biuro Podrozy begin the piece (which occurs outside, more of that later) with a town waltz, which is then mirrored as the citizens are housed in a holding facility, their beds becoming their partners. The beautifully choreographed but somehow fake dance seen pre-apocalypse is countered by the messy but gloriously real movement seen during the crisis. The whole piece is a kind of ballet-without-the-ballet, telling the story through movement and music and showing rather than telling events.
Jerzy Zoń creates a production which is visually, aurally and olefactorily exciting, assaulting us as we sit in the cool night air by blowing red confetti at us and blasting bass-laden music through speakers. Throughout the course of the production, natural light shifts from twilight to darkness, signifying a marked shift from a brighter time to a darker, more difficult one. Due to the changing times of this show, I doubt this is overly intentional, but it’s a disconcerting effect nonetheless.
As the men and women dance with the beds, there are clear undercurrents of Hollywood musicals as beds are put in circles or lines and create unforgettable visual images, satirising the form and suggesting that these ideas are so engrained in our collective consciousness that even an apocalypse cannot destroy them. The switch between subjugation of women to subjugation of men at the end is also a clever one, and is well-placed; the reversion to animalistic, destructive acts happens later on and only once these people have attempted every other way of existing in this nightmare.
The final scene is one of hope with a hint of despair, but we know that, on the whole, the catastrophe has past. The apocalypse here is clearly crafted to be a diatribe against the way in which we live, surrounded by strong visual stimuli but unable to ‘see’ what’s happening around us. This, coupled with the way in which Zoń presents a dystopia as somewhat beautiful makes The Blind a stunning visual treat.