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They say: “What if the curtain fell before the show was over? Diagnosed with a disease threatening blindness, one man shares the story of his love of, and search for, a life as a performer before the lights go down forever.”
Rachel’s take: Hysterical Blindness is great, I have been telling people. They are excited and ask what it’s about.
It’s about a guy going blind.
And…it’s him! The actor is going blind!
And suddenly they are less excited.
Yeah. The thing is, often in fiction that deals with progressive, incurable disease, the sick person gets brave, or stoic, or depressed, or symbolic of the resilience of the human spirit. What rarely happens in fiction but happens a lot in real life is the sick person becomes hilarious. Darkly hilarious maybe, but the very absurdity of your own body failing you when your own body IS you allows you to say things other people are afraid to say.
Justin Purvis is hilarious. Maybe he was hilarious before he was diagnosed with worsening eye disease at 13. But he is now. And he tells you the whole story in his one-man show he created with Chantal Martineau (owner of one of the most beautiful names in the world) and directed by Daniel Flint. How he learned that he couldn’t see much (or rather, that everyone else saw more), how the doctors made faces as they peered into his eyes, and how without quite realizing why, he determined to make all his big life choices before age 20.
He tells you about how much of you he can see, and what makes you more or less visible to him. I didn’t realize I wanted to know that, but he knew. Heor one of the other collaborators, it’s hard to know who did what— knows storytelling well enough to know that after he tells you about getting diagnosed, the next joke better be GREAT. And it is.
If you have a show about inevitable, tragic disease, and you want people to enjoy it, it better be great. And it is.
See it if: You want to know how someone with untreatable eye disease can come out the other side laughing about it.
Skip it if: You really don’t think you can handle it.
DISCLOSURE: The author appears as an actor in The Cloudism Project in this year’s Capital Fringe Festival.