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  • Miles Hedley

FLIGHT PATHS at The Albany

Multimedia theatre productions run the risk of letting technology overpower emotion. There was no danger of that, though, when Flight Paths sold out the Albany with a blend of story-telling, music, drama, dance and breathtaking circus skills – all performed by a blind cast.

A wonderful mobile sound system devised by Tarim allowed the large blind contingent in the audience to follow the action on stage while an ingenious audio-visual installation showed photos illustrating the narrative and film of two blind virtuoso musicians, Japanese violist Takashi Kikuchi and Nigerian singer Victoria Oruwai, whose beautiful performances soundtracked the evening.

But the technology played second fiddle to the human story of Flight Paths, which was brought to life on stage by two remarkable blind aerialists, American Amelia Cavallo and Australian ex-Paralympian Sarah Houbolt.

Using long silken ropes suspended from the ceiling, they climbed and twirled and dived in vertiginous swoops and spins as the screen behind them showed music clips and relayed stories of the wandering troupes of blind male and female minstrels once common in Japan.

Writer Glen Neath also incorporated conversations between the live performers to include entirely contemporary concerns for the international cast such as the problems of getting tour visas and the struggles disabled people have to face while travelling.

With humour, emotion and physical skill, directors Maria Oshodi and Kumiko Mendl and their team brought together the multifarious strands of the show to give a profoundly human sense of what it means to be blind.

Flight Paths, a co-production between Extant and Yellow Earth and an official event in this year’s Japan-UK Season Of Culture, is a remarkable piece of theatre – and a deeply inspiring one.

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