Blind Hamlet, Assembly Roxy, review: 'Feels like a cop-out'

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Edinburgh Festival 2014: This is just a game and taken nowhere

The disembodied voice of Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpou speaks to us through a dictaphone, carefully placed under a microphone by a stage manager.

He is losing his sight, the pre-recorded tape tells us; it’s hard to read and write, so instead he’ll speak a play - inviting the audience to reply and respond, to close our eyes and even come onstage. Blind Hamlet begins to ask questions about what you need to make theatre: a script? Actors, directors? Or just a present, responsive audience?

It’s a formally intriguing set-up, by a theatre-maker whose White Rabbit, Red Rabbit also attempted to get his voice - silenced in Iran - out to audiences, by having a different actor deliver each performance. This fictionalised Soleimanpou also claims he’s trying to read Hamlet for the first time before his eyesight fails: the show seems sure to go somewhere interesting.

Sadly, it does not. We’re abruptly - and I’d suggest, somewhat cynically - told Soleimanpou dies in a car crash, his last wish being to play a game with the audience (he’s alive and well IRL). Several of the audience - myself included - are called onstage to play a game of Mafia: you close your eyes, someone ‘dies’, you all have to guess the secret murderer.

I’m thinking, this is going to be clever: Hamlet and murder, how sight and hearing affect our understanding of guilt and innocence… But it’s just a game. It is taken nowhere, it illuminates nothing, and it feels like a cop-out.

To 25 Aug; assemblyfestival.com

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