Oval House Fringe

At 23, life was finally opening up. Lynn Manning had survived abject poverty, abusive parents and spells in jail; he ha a new job and a burgeoning talent for painting. Then he walked into a downtown LA bar and was shot in the face.

Don't think this is a sob story. Mannig, who is black, tall, and whose biceps sprout out of his vest like oak, metamorphosed that day from black man to blind man, from 'welfare-rich pimp to disabled gimp'. But when he lost his sight he found his voice – as a playwright and author of pulsating, percipient poetry.

Imaginatively accompanied by Gary Bergman and his electric guitar (it make more than just music), Manning's journey into blindness is shot through with childhood memories. He inhabits every character, from shady barfly Slick Rick, to his mother reeling home from a three-day bender. All the while he transcends and transforms the tragedies of his past with a robust humour. When he demonstrates learning to walk with a cane, no airline safety video could match it for inappropriate giggles.

At one-and-a-half hours, Manning's performance seems like an endurance sport (he regularly stops to be towelled down) and either an interval or some editing is needed. After the appalling dranatic intensity of that life-changing barroom fracas, nothing else in the show quite matches it. But if the energy flags, the experience continues to inspire long after you've left.

Emma John

Stay up-to-date, join our mailing list

We only send occasional emails and you can easily unsubscribe. For more information, see our privacy policy