Review: Blind Tasting – part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival

by Harriet Devlin

On the Limits of Language: Blind Tasting and a Life Without Labels

On a typical chilly Melbourne evening, I trundled down to North Melbourne’s Lithuanian Club (part of the Fringe Hub) to see Blind Tasting – sight unseen… I decided against reading up on the show or performers before attending, excited by the potential of experiencing something new without imposing a prior judgement of what I thought it could, would or should be.

With no expectations of what I was about to see, (which did seem in keeping with the themes of the show, in hindsight) I must admit I was ever-so-slightly perplexed when I saw an actor entering the stage blind-folded. Was she going to stay blindfolded for the entire performance? Was she going to start making awkward jokes about vision-impairment? Was she going to injure herself and have to cancel the entire season?! Thankfully, none of these scenarios eventuated and what followed (with the subsequent removal of the blindfold) was a punchy, whimsical tale of lovelorn Sophie executed exceptionally by actor Sylvia Keays.

Blind Tasting is a one-woman show which epitomises that Fringe Festival feeling; audience interaction, no-nonsense set-up, heartfelt and convincing acting, and a cracking script to boot. Blind Tasting is by turns a meditation on the meaning of life, a pondering on the labels that we impose on ourselves (and those that are given to us by others), and a stand-up comedy routine about sex, wine and cruise ships.

Produced by Sydney-based company, subtlenuance, Blind Tasting is a potent reminder of the importance of living life in the now. Superbly written by Paul Gilchrist, the piece is full of free associations and musings about relationships, personalities and the tyranny of judgement day. With energy, humour and dynamism, actor Sylvia Keays takes us on a journey which begins with her first experience of wine-selling, continues with her first experience of wine-tasting and ends with her first taste of the limitless potential of the present.

The natural sound-effects of the piece (the laughter of the audience, the trams on Errol Street outside and the pedestrian traffic of the Fringe Hub) seemed like “God’s choreography”, adding to the honesty and, at times, unavoidable present-ness of the piece. This simplicity was, however, undermined by occasional unnecessary technical elements which seemed clumsy and out of place in such a small intimate setting. The audience interaction was perhaps not as smooth as it could have been but it didn’t take long for Keays to reel us back into the wonder of wine and its lessons of ageing, complexity and satisfaction.

On the whole, my blind tasting of Blind Tasting, (although perhaps a little rough around the edges) proved fun, thought-provoking and insightful. Here’s to subtlenuance, to an absence of to-do lists, and to the presence of those special people in our lives – present and passed – who value us without judgement. Cheers!

28 September – 5 October 2012
Melbourne Fringe Hub
The Loft, Lithuanian Club
$20 (Adult) / $15 (Conc) / $10 (Tues)
www.melbournefringe.com.au / 03 9660 9666

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