Pounding music and stunning visuals in outdoor feast for eyes and ears
This article is from 2012.
Krakow-based KTO Theatre pulls off a rare feat in combining stunning visual effects with a potent emotional impact in its gripping, wordless show The Blind. Whether through pounding music, imagery that’s by turns shocking and poignantly beautiful, or its physical performers’ sheer animal energy, the company seems intent on engaging the audience in as direct a way as possible. And it works: it’s hard to tear your eyes off the show, no matter how harrowing it becomes.
And after its edenic, childlike opening, all brightly coloured dresses and pirouetting couples, things quickly get pretty distressing. Based on a novel by Portuguese Nobel prize-winning author José Saramago, the spectacle traces the gradual breakdown of a society when a mysterious blindness afflicts its people.
At first encouraged to help and support each other by a doctor’s wife, who’s still sighted, the blind hoards soon form packs to fight for survival, carry out brutal acts to assert their dominance, and slowly succumb to disease and desperation – all observed from on high by a trio of sinister masked figures in biological protection suits.
It’s a bleak assessment of our human relationships. But KTO Theatre refuses to wallow in the darkness, instead delivering spectacular set-pieces to tell its grim tale. Dozens of metal bed-frames, at first doled out to the newly blind, later form elaborate scaffolding contraptions to ensnare human victims, or shoot past the audience, propelled by the hunters. In one of the show’s most sumptuously beautiful scenes, a powerful wind machine sends billowing clouds of glittering scarlet across the dancing performers and right out into the audience.
There are admittedly times when spectacle seems to come before storytelling clarity, and there’s sometimes a sense of events unfolding rather arbitrarily. But it’s all done with such visual flair that it’s hard not to be swept up in the gripping emotions of this hugely powerful show.
Old College Quad, 226 0000, until 27 Aug, times vary, £13–£15 (£10–£13).