Tom Skelton: Blind Man's Buff

★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Tom Skelton
Published 13 Aug 2017

Nearly 10 years ago Tom Skelton started losing his sight. Now with only peripheral vision remaining, he's created a show offering a history of people with sight impairments. He's aware that sighted audiences might not be comfortable laughing about blindness, but reassures everyone that as he's the one telling the jokes, it's okay.

But an overcomplicated dramatic structure befuddles this idea. We're greeted in the auditorium by Skelton playing a doctor giving a lecture. As part of this he recounts his treatment of the patient 'Tom Skelton', whom Skelton also plays. And in those sessions the doctor gives examples of historical figures with similar sight impairments in order to reassure 'Skelton'. This means we flit between multiple settings with Skelton playing various parts – including himself. All this gets a bit confusing.

That said, Skelton is an energetic and enticing presence who works hard to lead the audience through all of this. The show is ramshackle in the best tradition of the Fringe, with multiple costume changes and audience interaction. In its focus on the history of blindness it has an original topic which means—in the best sense—it's also educational. But it feels like the numerous narrative frames are indicative of a performer worried that his theme might be too serious or offputting, when a more streamlined hour would have helped. There's a fascinating and funny show at the heart of all this, but it seems too keen to ensure its audience isn't discomfited.