All is most emphatically not well at Greywing Guest House. Perched on the edge of the storm-tossed sea, it is showing distinct signs of decrepitude and is almost as damp on the inside as the outside.
The residents, too, are giving cause for concern; Mr Thurston is engaged in an unfortunate experiment to reanimate his dead sister and little Evelyn, with her too-wide smile, is busy dissecting seagulls. Nevertheless, Miss Amelia is doing what needs to be done, and welcomes us warmly, if distractedly, when we arrive for our holiday.
Throughout the course of our stay we will learn more about the resolutely stalwart Miss Amelia; when she is not offering tourist tips, or upbraiding us for untidiness, she tells us stories about her past. We hear how she came to be custodian of this unusual house, and learn about the tragic and disturbing fate of her husband and father-in- law. Gradually, the atmosphere in the dilapidated old house ceases to be merely odd and becomes menacing.
Writer and actress Molly Beth Morossa has a lovely, poetic turn of phrase and an undeniable flair for the luxuriantly gothic. Much of this one-woman performance takes the form of monologues, which can be a challenge; thankfully she has the presence and charisma to carry it off. Her Miss Amelia, with her nervous, fluttering hands, rictus grin and staccato delivery, is a fascinating study. I think she would have been an even more unsettling personage had she been slightly older – though of course there is nothing Morossa can do about that – and if her vowels had been rather more clipped, 1930s style. Nevertheless, she is an immensely watchable and sympathetic character.
Morossa and director Tom Crowley cleverly break up the flow by punctuating the chatter with stories animated by puppetry, shadow play, music, dance and film, all of which is simple yet eerily effective. One tale in particular, deftly illustrated with nothing but a lacy shawl, will haunt me for a long time.
The Vaults are the ideal venue for a gothic fantasy such as this; the cavernous, echoing ceilings, gentle rumble of passing trains and steady dripping of water in the darkness – potentially ruinous to the electrics – combine to produce a uniquely depressing and unsettling atmosphere. The narrative itself is genuinely horrifying, but it is the subtle sense of growing oppression and impending doom, expertly maintained by Morossa, which makes Greywing House so immersive and gripping. I believe in that place – it feels real to me, and I would love to go back there again, to stare out of the window at the black, swirling sea, to drink tea with the unusual and unsettling residents and to hear Miss Amelia weaving her stories. A dark, delicious treat.
Review by Genni Trickett
Greywing House sits precariously on the coast, keeping watch over a cruel and tumultuous ocean. Miss Amelia has prepared your room, and awaits your arrival to introduce guests both past and present. Breakfast is unfortunately no longer provided as one can never be entirely certain of the time. A few simple rules: no smoking, no pets or animals (excepting, of course, Mr Thurston up the stairs) and no chanting of evocations in communal areas.
1st to 5th February 2017