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The Braille Legacy review

| Theatre | 16/05/2017

The Braille Legacy © Charing Cross Theatre
Rating:

French musical The Braille Legacy recently held its world premiere at Charing Cross Theatre, telling the true story of Louis Braille’s invention of his eponymous tactile alphabet which helped transform the lives of blind people ever since.  

Directed by the highly-acclaimed Thom Southerland (Titanic, Parade), The Braille Legacy has many of the ingredients required to be a classic: a strong story with bleakness and hope, a young cast with impressive voices and a thoughtful approach to presentation.  

However, as Sandip Kana writes below, a few glaring issues prevent the production from fully allowing its thought-provoking message to shine through.

The Braille Legacy © Charing Cross TheatreThe story of Braille might not be familiar to everyone.  It was young Louis who, nearly 200 years ago, revolutionised the way in which blind people like himself could communicate through a simple, yet ingenius invention.

This production follows Louis through his teenage years as he struggles against numerous barriers to perfect what eventually became the Braille alphabet.  At the blind school, he and his peers are confronted head-on with the brutality, isolation and darkness that faced those with impaired vision during the nineteenth-century – the “People of the Night” as he refers to them.

But as the show progresses, Louis becomes increasingly determined to overcome these challenges and ensure that those like him can also engage with literature.  In short, he tries – and succeeds – to shine some light into their lives.

This musical probably won’t entertain you as much as certain other West End productions, but it does provide an insight into the intense struggle and stigma faced by this once-marginalised community.

The Braille Legacy © Charing Cross TheatreSoutherland and his team rely heavily on simplicity to achieve this goal.  Tim Shortall’s set design is a minimalist structure of a building on a revolving platform; elsewhere, props are kept to a minimum, placing black cloths around the blind students to represent their visual impairment.

The musical numbers are more striking, providing the play with some of the passion, emotion and excitement required to hit the spot.  Jack Wolfe is a determined Louis, with a strong stage presence and – at times – a mesmerising voice.

There are also strong performances from Michael Remick, Lottie Henshall and Ashley Stillburn.  And the young cast of students should be applauded for their acting abilities, which will no doubt grow in strength over the remainder of the run.

But although its aim is laudable, the production falls slightly short of the mark overall.  Parts can seem quite clunky and rushed, and the musical never truly reaches the level of intensity you think Southerland was aiming for.  Still, with a few tweaks, there’s potential for The Braille Legacy to deliver its message in a way that strikes a chord with everyone.

The Braille Legacy is being performed at Charing Cross Theatre until 24th June 2017.  For tickets, head here.  All images used above are © Charing Cross Theatre.

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