Halloween season is once more upon us and the London Horror Festival has plenty of macabre productions to satisfy the most dedicated aficionado. One show that stands out from the rest is Blind by Ryots Productions. Written by Emily Gillmor Murphy, and produced by Ciaran Gallagher and Colin Doran, Blind is a binaural, immersive audio experience that you can listen to at home.
An amalgam of the oral tradition of telling ghost stories and the ‘found footage’ trope, Blind taps into the ‘simplest’ yet effective avenues of storytelling – the use of sound and the listener’s imagination. The story takes place at the grand re-opening of The Butcher Library in Ireland, an occasion that lures author and historian Alice Levine (Martha Breen) away from her book tour. Invited to the premises by Ben (Aonghus Òg McAnally) one of the local townspeople, it is hoped that Alice’s indepth knowledge of the building would be entertaining and perhaps ‘peppered’ with an occasionally ‘spooky’ anecdote. However, Alice is audibly perturbed by her surroundings and following the superstitious custom, throws salt over her left shoulder to ward off evil.
Waiting offstage to give her talk, Alice’s debut is halted by an abrupt power outage that causes the lights to shatter and plunges the entire library into darkness… Inwardly, Alice’s anxiety is ‘through the roof’, but the calming presence of a child (Niamh McPhillips) nearby allays her worst fears. Against her better judgement, Alice tells the girl about the troublesome history of The Butcher Library and how it earned its dubious name…
One would be forgiven for initially thinking that Blind would follow the trope of some places being inherently evil, as popularised by the works of Stephen King. However, Blind takes a more nuanced approach to the storytelling, tracing the origin of the ‘horrors’ to tragedy born out of love, the human condition and despair.
While Blind has an obvious correlation to the degenerative eye disorder that the butcher’s daughter (in Alice’s tale) suffers from, the word also has layers of meaning in the play, pertaining to the obfuscation of ‘the truth’ by the principal characters’ ‘perception’. In this respect, Blind takes a leaf out of playwright Conor McPherson’s book, in using the ‘supernatural’ as a metaphor for explaining human nature.
Suffice to say, if you listen to Blind in a darkened room, it takes the listening experience to the next level and effortlessly find yourself in the shoes of Alice…
© Michael Davis 2021