And so I return to where it all started for me, The Bread and Roses Theatre. This time I was asked to review A Trilogy of Horrors. Showcasing stage adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Charles Dickens’ “The Signal Man” and Mary Shelley’s “The Mortal Immortal”. Authors who stories still resonate today.
A Trilogy of Horrors is staged by TumbleDry Theatre whose previous productions include The Wonderful World of Dissocia which was performed at The Bread and Roses earlier this year. Directed by John Rushton and produced by Miranda Debenham there was talent to go around.
My heart thudded in my chest as I climbed the winding staircase, what would I see? And more importantly how would it lay tribute to such three stunning texts. The theatre space is small, dimly lit, intimate, the staging minimal. Perfect for the retelling of three classic horrors.
Imogen Brabant is waiting for us on stage. Her costume is stunning, dressed in a period costume she is every inch the unnamed narrator. The lights go dim and she alone is lit up on stage. Here Imogen carries us through a twenty five minute monologue of The Signal Man. Told from our narrator’s point of view, a schoolmistress who meets a lonely signalman, who claims to be visited by a ghost which warns of a coming, terrible accident. The perfect ghost story for the week of Halloween. There was no room for anyone else on stage, Imogen commands it. It was impossible to tear my eyes off her, every nuance, every emotion skilfully acted.
After a five minute stage change we are introduced to Ishmael (Winzy, in the original text) from The Mortal Immortal, a man who recalls his youth where he worked as an apprentice to an alchemist trying to create the philosophers stone, the key to immortality. Probably my least favourite of the traditional texts, I was not as easily captivated by the story. That quickly changed with Connor Jones’s performance. The soliloquy of a man lost to madness by the sins he has committed. His audience interaction was excellent and I could feel my companion recoiling in horror, which shows a job well done.
Up next can only be the performance I have been waiting for, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart the first horror story I ever read. The chilling account of a maid’s descent into a paranoid madness, which drives them down into the darkest part of the human soul. In through the doors comes the wild eyed Tess played by Sarah Sorenson. The last monologue was a perfect melding of the two that had gone before it. We believe Tess as she recounts her story, and then follow her on her descent into madness. Sorenson played this role with ease and command of the audience.
This show deserves a lot more than the two night slot it was given. These talented stars have what it takes to elevate this show to the next level. It is evident the amount of time and preparation that each monologue has taken. It was not without its stumbles, but what matters is how the actors recover from these. Each picked up and carried on, as if it was meant to be. A simple yet effective reimagined work, that while taking artistic license with some classic features of these stories, plays tribute to them as well.
Review by Lisa Shaw
TumbleDry present three classic horror stories from three great writers.
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, a chilling account of a lodger’s descent into a paranoid madness, which drives them down into the darkest parts of the human soul.
Charles Dickens’ “The Signal Man”, where a schoolmistress tells of an unnerving meeting with a railway signalman, who claims to be visited by a ghost which warns of a coming, terrible accident.
Mary Shelley’s “The Mortal Immortal”, in which a man tells of his youth where he worked as apprentice to an alchemist trying to create the elixir of life, the key to immortality.
BY BRENDAN HELLIER, ROBERT BIRCHALL & JOHN RUSHTON
ADAPTED FROM WORKS BY EDGAR ALLAN POE, MARY SHELLEY & CHARLES DICKENS
DIRECTED BY JOHN RUSHTON
Produced by Miranda Debenham. Technical Design by Josh Littlewood. Starring Sarah Sorensen, Imogen Brabant & Connor Jones.