In 2009 comedian Tom Skelton realised that he was losing the sight in his right eye. During the following months, his sight deteriorated, until he was left with just 5% vision. Blind Man’s Bluff is a one-man journey through the history of blindness, following the young Tom while he learns about the greatest blind figures in history. It’s entertaining – but also intimate and touching, as Skelton lays a potentially painful subject bare before the audience.
The concept of the show is original and interesting – and the framing, referencing Skelton’s own life and experience of sight loss, ties it together well. Skelton is a good actor, and the characters are all very different and well portrayed. The costumes and props are ambitious and impressive as well, though there were a few slip-ups when changing between them.
Skelton delivers some wonderfully funny scenes and lines, but the show is hit-and-miss, and the overall impression is more interesting and entertaining than laugh-a-minute. Quite a lot of the material relies on niche references, which aren’t funny for those of us who didn’t get the joke. And some jokes that worked at first are re-visited one too many times, losing their humour on the second or third reference.
Skelton is charmingly self-aware, and frequently told himself to "shut up Tom" after an irrelevant aside or improvised rant. He also performs as part of the improvised comedy troupe Racing Minds, and his ability to ad-lib allowed saved his face when a pre-planned joke didn't work as he'd hoped it world. His recognition of mistakes endeared him to the audience, and generated laughs which made up for those lost by poor punchlines. It was funny that he recognised his own weaknesses, but I couldn’t help wishing he’d done so a little earlier; after one segment he jokingly asked "was the punchline worth the setup?", and the honest answer was no.
It's a shame those few weak sketches let Blind Man’s Bluff down, because Skelton clearly has talent as an actor and comedian and is a very charismatic performer. The concept of the show is clever – and, as Skelton bares details of his own life to the audience, he adds a touching humanity to the story. It’s not perfect, but Blind Man’s Bluff is an original and entertaining show with some moments of real hilarity.