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Review: The Braille Legacy

June 8, 2017

The Braille Legacy is a new musical, full of lovely songs, which tells the beautiful story of a brilliant mind. The brilliant mind of a young blind boy, Louis Braille, who grew up in 19th Century Paris.

As a physically disabled woman with eyesight, who was a child in 20th Century London, I appear to be very different to Louis Braille. Yet I strongly related to the show. I realised almost straight away that Louis Braille and I had many similar experiences in childhood.

The play has several strong themes, mainly discrimination, education and friendship.

The young Louis Braille faced discrimination throughout his life. From an early age, he loved literature, poetry and Shakespeare- three of my own great loves!  However, at his local library, only one book was accessible to him and he became frustrated by this. He made a scene and got banned from the library but said “They didn’t throw me out because of that. They threw me out because I am blind.”

Braille studied at the Institute of Blind Youth in Paris. He wanted the same opportunities in life as those who could see, particularly the opportunity to have an academic education and read. I related to this, too, because I have always passionately supported inclusive education for disabled children. The Institute’s Director liked Louis Braille and supported his dreams, as he also believed in giving blind children an academic education. However another teacher, Mr Defoe, believed in teaching blind children skills instead of academics. He strongly disliked Louis Braille, even caning him for knowing a correct answer in a History lesson.

Eventually the Institute was introduced to a new system of reading and writing. Louis Braille, the Director’s favourite pupil, was asked to test this system. He recognised its value, but suggested several improvements to it. Mr Defoe hated the new system, and the Director’s “favouritism of Braille” but the other teachers allowed Braille to work on it in secret. After much hard work, an alphabet with six dots was created. This led to the reading and writing system known and used worldwide today.

The children at the Institute were all close friends, almost like family. Watching them, I was reminded of the close friends I have who share my disability. The bond between people who share a disability is an unbreakable one, and having experienced it myself, I was very pleased to see this covered in the play.

Towards the end of the play, the audience is given some very interesting information about Louis Braille. He became a teacher at the Institute, but his career was cut short by TB, which killed him in 1852, aged just 43.

I came away from the play completely inspired by Louis Braille. I couldn’t help wondering what he would think if he could know what his legacy, the Braille system, has turned into today.

Jack Wolfe as Louis Braille stole the show, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I can only find one negative thing to say about the production- it would have been even better if at least some of the actors playing the students at the Institute had been blind or partially sighted themselves.

The show runs at the Charing Cross Theatre until 24 June.

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