Tuesday 25 April 2017

The Braille Legacy - Review

Charing Cross Theatre, London


French book and lyrics by Sébastien Lancrenon
Music by Jean-Baptiste Saudray
Translation by Ranjit Bolt
Directed by Thom Southerland

The Company

There's a magnificent story behind The Braille Legacy. Louis Braille, the blind French boy who applied himself to developing a language of tactile dots that brought literature to the sightless.

Sadly however in Thom Southerland's interpretation of this new musical, the audience are reduced to little more than les tricoteuses, witnessing a tale that could have played to heart-soaring beauty instead be guillotined to a work of crass and shallow simplicity.

The history behind Braille's struggles is inspirational, but in Lancrenon's prose and Bolt's execrable translations, any glimmer of wit or humanity is blacked out by exposition and cliché.

The acting is as good as the script allows, with Jerome Pradon, Ceili O'Connor and, as Braille himself, newcomer Jack Wolfe all making the best of a tortuous libretto. There's a beautifully voiced chorus of children representing Paris' blind youth.

But Southerland and his choreographer Lee Proud have done (and can do) far better than this. Most of Saudray's tunes lack punch, while Tim Shortall’s curious set appears to be little more than a curious revolving cube comprised of modern French Doors. 

By all means see this show to support a hard working cast and to learn a little more about the life of one of France's true cultural giants. The RNIB are on the programme too with a noble and worthy endorsement.

But while The Braille Legacy may be a passable history lesson, it's ultimately a very disappointing musical.

Runs until 24th June
Photo credit: Scott Rylander

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