St Mary’s Old Church, Stoke Newington
If you go to see this production, and I certainly recommend that you do, please remember to wrap up warmly. It was freezing, and this did distract slightly from my overall enjoyment of the show. However, the subject matter was also chilling, so perhaps the cold was deliberate!
Second Skin have taken five of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and woven them together into a festival of horror. Set in the church where Poe is said to have worshipped as a boy, this is environmental theatre at its best. The staging takes place all over the church and grounds and every nook and cranny is utilized to eerie advantage.
The five pieces are linked together by the preacher (Stephen Connery Brown) who steps are dogged continuously by the raven (David Hugh), right up until the dramatic denouement of the show, presided over by the demonic Prospero (Conrad Williams) when the preacher finally descends to his doom.
I had two favourites among the Poe adaptations woven into this drama, the first being “The Cask of Amontillado,” featuring Owen Nolan and Sarah Scott. This piece had a good balance of characters and effective use of different locations, the ending being particularly poe-esque. Both actors played their parts to perfection. In particular, Owen Nolan’s journey from drunken lechery to abject terror was both believable and frightening.
The second piece I especially enjoyed was “Premature Burial.” Again, the characters were well balanced and the location was utilised effectually. Michael Amariah’s Jake grabbed your attention from the first moment, Steve Brownlie’s performance as Clive had a dream-like, otherworldliness to it, and Sarah Feathers sympathetic portrayal of the grieving widow was especially poignant.
As well as the cast, the sound and lighting were true stars of this show. The background music (and other noises) contributed hugely to the grisly atmosphere, and the sinister use of lights, candles, projectors, smoke and even electric heaters all added to the supernatural ambience. This is stage management at a level not normally seen on the Fringe. Black box it ain’t!
Overall, I highly recommend a visit to Poe: Macabre Resurrections. You will be cold, you will be scared, but you can buy a glass of wine at the interval, and if you wait around afterwards a woman will come and mop up the blood.
Running till 4 December 2011 Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 8.20pm, St Mary’s Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street.