The Blue Man Group is a famous and well-established performance art troupe that has been going since the early 1990s, but we only found out about them quite recently, thanks to Arrested Development. The Group is primarily based in the USA, but while we were in Berlin, T. and I discovered there is a long-running Blue Man Group show in that city–the only one in Europe. Naturally we decided we had to check it out.
We had only a limited idea of what to expect. In Arrested Development you don’t see that much of an actual BMG show, and instead the troupe serves mainly as a sort of recurring background reference to highlight the foibles of individual characters. But a quick internet search indicated that music, comedy, satire, and lots and lots of colour would be involved. We decided to buy the most expensive tickets so we’d get to sit in the front row, where you’re issued with a poncho to protect you from getting splashed with blue paint and banana juice. Definitely sounds like my idea of a good night.
Tickets for the BMG Berlin show aren’t cheap: depending on when you go and where you sit, you’re looking at about 55-80 Euros per ticket. The shows last about 90 minutes, so I suppose it’s about on par with seeing a (very) major rock band or an expensive musical. The show was quite full, though, so the price doesn’t seem to deter people; and spending that amount of money also makes you pretty determined to have a good time.
For our part, we really enjoyed our experience watching the Blue Man Group. The show begins with a musical section with the three members of the Group playing percussion instruments during a stunning display of light and colour. It was really spectacular and felt quite special. Overall, the show featured a few of these sequences and for me they were the highlights. There is something profoundly moving about the live fusion of sound and light achieved by the Blue Man Group and I would be interested in seeing an entire performance like this, although it might end up being a bit overwhelming.
Most of the rest of the show features a number of skits and routines by the three members, sometimes with a backing band featuring drums and electric guitars. The showmanship is at a very high level and the blue men are all consummate musicians and entertainers. They are completely mute during the performance, communicating through dance and various devices brought on stage. Although the show is in Berlin, most of the voiceover was in English, which makes sense as I’m sure it’s a significant tourist attraction.
As well as the music, I enjoyed the physical comedy and there was a lot of interaction between the Group and the audience. This involved throwing things at audience members (I caught a marshmallow in my mouth, earning a round of applause), as well as firing bits of food and assorted gunk at people sitting in the front rows. Overall, we left feeling a bit disappointed that we weren’t subjected to more flying paint and banana juice: the ponchos (and more expensive seats) had created expectations of leaving drenched in water-soluble paint, which alas did not happen.
The alien appearance of the Group is used to good effect as they employ the familiar comedic technique of reproducing ‘normal’ human behaviours (like eating dinner) with an unusual twist (eating a twinkie with a knife and fork). Although I felt some of the attempts at satire–especially about the internet and digital technology–fell a bit flat, the show’s underlying philosophy and energy is really inspiring. Attending a BMG show is a joyful experience, as you’re drawn in to enjoy the beautifully-crafted combinations of colour, shape, movement and sound. Ultimately you’re led to revel in a wholesome and child-like appreciation of your own senses, which is something truly refreshing, invigorating and all too rare in the world of grown-ups. In the end, these three alien-looking Blue Men deliver an experience that is about making you feel happy to be alive, and what more can you ask for than that?