Imagine being all but blind and then inviting a horde of strangers to come and laugh at your plight – a daunting prospect for anyone, other than the ingenious Tom Skelton, it seems.
Rather than dwell on the sudden loss of the majority of his sight, Skelton deftly calls his blindness’ bluff by using it for his own comedic advantage. In his second Fringe show, Blind Man’s Bluff, Skelton fuses personal reflection with story sketches of famous historical figures who were also blind or VIPs (Visually Impaired People). He begins by recounting how he lost his sight just before university and keeping it a secret from his parents until he was diagnosed with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy. Although at times there was a sense that the audience struggled to relate, Skelton made it light enough to empathise and even laugh alongside him without feeling disrespectful.
The show really comes into its own once Skelton turns his attention to the stories of his fellow VIPs. With help from – albeit reluctant – audience volunteers, various props and a multitude of costume changes, Skelton masterfully takes us on a journey ranging from Samson right the way through to Stevie Wonder. The anecdotes are refreshingly funny and Skelton oozes showmanship. He also turns his hand to music with an hilarious rendition of Tom Jones ‘Delilah’.
Masterfully executed with warmth and natural comedic flare, even when some of the impressions fall on deaf ears, Skelton’s charming charisma alone pulls the audience back. An extremely clever one man show that cries out for a bigger stage.
Words: Claire Jack
Tom Skelton: Blind Man’s Bluff, Underbelly Med Quad, Aug 5-28 (not 16), 4:30pm