Review: PERCEPTUAL ARCHAEOLOGY (or How to Travel Blind)

by Lynn on June 10, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Streetcar Crowsnest, in the Studio Theatre, presented by Crow’s Theatre and Fire and Rescue Team. Plays until June 25, 2023.

Written and performed by Alex Bulmer

Directed by Lean Cherniak

Set, props and costumes by Victoria Wallace

Lighting by David Degrow

Sound by Deanna H. Choi and Thomas Ryder Payne

Line Feeder and performer, Enzo Massara

Joyful. Enlightening. Illuminating.

The show began on the dot of ‘on time’ when the ticket said it would begin. This was just the start of aspects of this show that would be astonishing. The show is for sighted and sight impaired people.

Perceptual Archaeology (Or How to Travel Blind) is written and performed by Alex Bulmer who began losing her sight to retinitis pigmentosa when she was 19. She’s now in her 50’s. She has not stopped performing and creating because of her blindness. She seems emboldened by it even embracing it.

She wanted to become a blind travel writer like James Holman (15 October 1786 – 29 July 1857), who was a travel writer and adventurer in England. She decided to ‘follow’ in Holman’s footsteps and take trips that he did. The show in fact is composed of five parts that come from five of Alex Bulmer’s travel pieces.

She travelled to Germany with her sighted friend Michael. She recounts the sounds around her; going out on her own; being concerned when she was separated from Michael at one point by what seemed like a riot. She realized her ambitions were too great for this trip and it ended early. But she didn’t quit. She went to Graceland (even though James Holman didn’t) and took in all that entailed about Elvis Presley. She travelled the whole Camino trail in Spain, again with Michael as her sighted companion.

The show is for sight impaired and sighted people. She is aided and abetted by Director Leah Cherniak who negotiates Alex Bulmer around Victoria Wallace’s efficient sent. In an interesting twist, Alex Bulmer has a line feeder, Enzo Massara He quietly reads the script into a microphone off to the side and the lines are fed to her by an ear piece. She then repeats the lines, effortlessly. He also engages in the narrative as an accommodating companion.

Does it work as theatre? It works beautifully. Alex Bulmer has charm, curiosity, a gentle self-deprecating humour and a keen ability to describe her world through sound, touch, music, smell and awareness of what is around her.  The beauty of this magical piece of theatre is not Alex Bulmer’s fearlessness and joy to travel and explore the world, as a blind woman. It’s that she has shown us how to look, see and experience our world in a more vibrant way.

Loved this piece.

Presented by Crow’s Theatre and Fire and Rescue Team.

Plays until June 25, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes, (no intermission)

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