By Jay Ménard
Fringe offers a venue for stories that may not otherwise get told. They afford a performer a level of intimacy that may not be permitted by larger, more cavernous venues, or that may be impeded by a screen.
At its best, Fringe is about sharing stories. It’s about falling in love with a performer and letting him or her transport you away for an hour.
And this year, at London’s Fringe Festival, on the Palace Theatre stage, accompanied only by a microphone for the most part — that’s how a woman with one ‘glass’ eye was able to allow us, the audience, to see clearly into her soul. And it’s how she was able to reach out and touch ours.
Stephanie Morin-Robert’s BLINDSIDE is ostensibly the story of a specific point in time of her youth – roughly a one-year period from the middle of Grade 3 into Grade 4 when she was seven years old. Physically, the story takes place in Timmins and Porcupine, ON.
Emotionally, the story has a far greater reach.
Morin-Robert’s greatest strength is that she makes you, the audience member, fall in love with her. She tells her story in an intoxicating way – bringing the audience to a crescendo of laughter, only to knock the wind out of your emotional sails and have you on the verge of tears.
Having lost her eye to retinoblastoma, Morin-Robert never plays the story for pity. She shares stories of horrific embarrassment, but plays them for laughs. She appreciates the humour in the absurdity and allows the audience to feel comfortable in sharing that experience. Nervous laughter dissolves quickly into genuine laughter, simply because Morin-Robert comes to embrace her glass eye as a superpower.
Most of the production is simply Morin-Robert at a microphone, telling her story, peppering dramatic moments of empowerment with coy asides and humourous interludes.
Fair warning — cat lovers will need to bring extra tissues. And having a couple of Kleenexes tucked away is probably a good idea for everyone. Your eyes will well up – BLINDSIDE will break your heart, but it will send you on your way buoyed with pride, laughter, and appreciation.
She transitions from story arc to story arc through the use of dance and a clever video camera projection of her face on a screen. But at its heart, BLINDSIDE is a woman, a story, and a compelling delivery. The show compares favourably to Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box, and rivals Tonya Jone Miller’s Threads as the best one-woman performance to grace the London Fringe community in years.
Check that. It’s one of the best performances of any kind to grace London’s stages in years – no qualifications necessary.
BLINDSIDE may be a story about living with one eye, but Morin-Robert’s clarity of vision into her emotions – and her ability to take us along with her journey – is without peer.
5/5 stars (if there was a sixth, I’d give it to this show)