Louis Braille is a name familiar to us all for inventing the system of raised dots that bears his name, allowing the blind to read. He is the subject of a new musical, The Braille Legacy, currently playing at the Charing Cross Theatre, below the station of the same name.
His story takes place in an institution, in France and follows his formative years as a precocious student and the resistance of the ‘establishment’ to allow him to develop his system.
This musical by Sébastien Lancrenon and Jean-Baptiste Saudray, for me, lacked the necessary drama to warrant it being a musical. As the audience are familiar with Braille and what he did, the focus of the show is on how he did it and, the linear narrative meant that the story was, sadly, all too predictable. It was once said that the songs in musicals should come at the point where emotion reaches its zenith and there is no other option but to sing and use music rather than dialogue. The dynamics of this piece failed to provide the peaks and troughs, leaving the audience feeling rather flat.
Don’t get me wrong, the show does have its merits but I fear they lay away from the writing. The cast was superb, especially Jérôme Pradon as Doctor Pignier, the encouraging head of the institution, eventually forced out by his want of reform. Indeed his song, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, the motto of Paris, was a highlight of the show. The design was also very well executed. The monochromatic look of the piece, with a revolving set, was used by the director, to great effect.
Overall I am pleased to have seen this production however I feel that it doesn’t yet quite work as a musical and the story of Louis Braille may work better as a play.
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