Effing and Blinding Cabaret Review From North West Disability Arts Forum
You might be forgiven for thinking that the title of Extant theatre company's latest play refers to the anglo-saxon nature of their content to come, but far from it, this astute and entertaining selection of cabaret doesn't break the threshold of offensiveness. It is, however, performed entirely in the pitch dark by four blind actors
Extant are a company comprised entirely of visually impared artists committed to broadening the perspectives of their audience through sharing their experiences as closely as possible. In this latest show, the sense of the performers as they move throughout the venue, sometimes thrusting a surprising tickle of fabric onto audience faces, or rattling chains at close range, gives an encounter which moves far beyond aural, particularly when the threat of a man-eating python released into the audience is backed up by hissing actors weaving into the crowd.
In a witty blend of live music and sketch, the central theme is the day to day experiences of visually impaired people. Take Gita and Rupert's 'blind date' for instance, where the cocktail pianist cannot contain himself from churning out schmaltz upon schmaltzy love song, which invariably refer to sight and eyes. Or the audio enhancement DVD of Goldfinger with a malfuncioning and argumentative visual commentator.
Some of the skits, particularly the wackier ones, are more successful than others, but nevertheless the team of performers never fail to raise consistent chuckles. More than just a cabaret show, this originally conceived piece goes some way to conjure up the physical and social experiences of blind people both in the content of its sketches and in their presentation. It's to be hoped that Extant continue to grow as a company as this show's broad appeal deserves more than a few performances.
It’s not all about the laughs at Edinburgh though. Theatre is very much an integral part of the Fringe with some of the most imaginative stage plays starting out here. There’s serious shows (a new take on Racine’s Phaedre, Outside In Theatre’s Darkness Within), laugh out louders (the touching Teenage Kicks, which follows John Peel’s story), classics (Macbeth) and hilarious cabaret (Ladyboys of Bangkok return and Effing and Blinding Cabaret takes performance to new levels of the absurd).
Effing and Blinding Cabaret Review from Total theatre
The whole performance takes place in the dark: four visually impaired performers lead numerous sketches within a cabaret format. There's plenty of song and jokes throughout the night…
We are invited to sit in tables arranged in the space so as to resemble a cabaret, and after the announcement to turn off our mobiles and to hide anything that emits light, the theatre lights are off for good. We hear a few sound recordings expectedly within the cabaret context until a live keyboard sound interrupts it and a voice claims: “let the absurdity begin”. From this point onwards there is quite a random mix, from punk songs about a blind person's daily routine to Monty-Pythonesque sketches of an estate-agent eating snake. I was hit in the head a few times as the performers sung songs at top volume in my ear, and enjoyed orgasmic groans behind my back, which really just added more flavour to the risk-taking 'experience'. The commentary is very clever at times, but it is weakened by the cheap jokes along the way. It is exciting to experience work made and managed by visually impaired professionals who no doubt have their own opinion on what ‘total theatre’ is.