Home » London Theatre Reviews » Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat – a live online event | Review

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat – a live online event | Review

There’s no doubt that as the pandemic goes on, that one year after theatres closed, production companies are having to work harder and harder to come up with original and distinctive work. It’s getting to the point where productions using Zoom are becoming a little repetitive – after all, there’s only so much you can do using the format. Other productions have used social media, the filming of live plays and musicals and live streaming using the various platforms. Now production company Threedumb Theatre have come up with an innovative and unique concept as far as I’m aware – a promenade performance without an audience to do the promenading!

Edgar Allan Poe's The Black CatThe Black Cat is their fourth horror-based drama following on from The Tell-Tale Heart, Within and The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll And Mr Hyde, and is taken directly from Edgar Allen Poe’s 1843 novella. This adaptation takes us on a journey as the unnamed narrator tells the dark tale of the family cat, arson, nightmares, and murder.

Stephen Smith plays The Man and also directs and whilst a monologue, occasionally his wife appears (played by Michaela Bennison) who has no real dialogue but sits at a piano tinkling an eerie “Three Blind Mice” before coming to a sticky end along with the titular cat. Smith is excellent as he veers from sane to drunk to madness before the inevitable denouement. He also has to move around a lot as the production uses all of the space at The Space (an old chapel in Docklands) as the protagonist moves from the main room, then goes out into the street (luckily no buses go past), then back inside, up to the first-floor bar which stands in for the tavern where he drinks and then into the basement where terrible things happen.

What makes this platform production stands out is that taking the place of the audience following the character around, moving from place to place, it’s all done by one camera as it’s filmed in one continuous shot – there’s no editing used. To do this must have taken hours of rehearsal to get this right and special mention must go to the anonymous cameraman and technical team as there are also excellent sound effects, music and lighting. Threedumb Theatre have used this filming technique for their other horror productions, and it certainly adds to the atmosphere.

However, the problem in having to do these productions online is that a lot of the fear factor is lost sitting at home in a comfy armchair having to answer the door to the Sainsbury’s delivery man as well other distractions such as the wailing siren of a passing police car. The other big problem on the night I watched, was a delay at the beginning due a technical problem and poor-quality video and sound throughout the fifty minutes that the piece lasted so not all the dialogue could be heard clearly.

Threethumb Theatre should be praised for what they’re trying to do during these difficult times but I’m sure they can’t wait to get back into a theatre and scare their audiences to death in person.

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

The Black Cat is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s lesser-known classics – but no less gothic, macabre and, at times, terrifying! I have memorised the original 1843 text and intend to perform it completely unabridged. Adding to this, in the same style as the previous digital theatre shows, this will be performed in one singular take, which will track throughout the venue, and streamed 100% live to an online audience – in an effort to make the experience as dangerous, and as close to ‘real live theatre’ as possible.

The show runs from Tuesday 23rd – Friday 26th March (start time: 20:30). The run time should be around 45/50 minutes. More information can be found on The Space’s website: https://space.org.uk/

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