Tag Archives: Dominica Plummer

One Man Poe

One Man Poe

★★★

The Space

One Man Poe

One Man Poe

The Space

Reviewed – 19th October 2021

★★★

 

“One Man Poe’s strong points are definitely the sounds—not just Smith’s flexible voice skills, but also Joseph Furey’s music and sound design”

 

The London Horror Festival is once again bringing chills and thrills across the metropolitan area, even if the pandemic means a pared down festival this year. One Man Poe, performed by Stephen Smith at the suitably spooky Space in London’s East End, is one of several offerings for the 2021 Halloween season. It’s hard to find a writer more accomplished in the horror genre than Edgar Allan Poe—and there’s a reason why this American nineteenth century writer is still widely read and enjoyed today, despite the archaic language, and the dictionary workout his words will give you. Based on three of Poe’s best known stories, and one very well known poem, One Man Poe is a no-brainer of a choice for the Festival by Smith and the Threedumb Theatre Company.

Nevertheless, One Man Poe is a bit of a misnomer. This piece, clocking in at one hundred and forty minutes (including the interval) is not so much a play, as a staged performance of Poe’s stories by Smith. And while Smith’s is the only voice on stage throughout the show, he is not always the only person there. Assisted by Jack Hesketh as a doctor in one story, and as a policeman in another, Smith performs The Tell-Tale Heart; The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Black Cat. The Raven, Poe’s signature poem, is the final piece that sets the seal on an evening of blood chilling revelations.

Smith does have a great voice for these kind of stories, and his presentation is appropriate, if verging on the melodramatic. But then, the Victorians did appreciate a good melodrama. Smith’s diction is clear and measured, allowing the audience to relish Poe’s language. It’s overkill, then, to project the words on the back of the stage, above the actor’s head, for the whole performance. It is a distraction the audience could do without, and dispensing with them might also allow the lighting designer (Eddie Stephens) to shine a bit more light on the proceedings on stage without obscuring the text on the wall. One Man Poe’s strong points are definitely the sounds—not just Smith’s flexible voice skills, but also Joseph Furey’s music and sound design. Kudos also to dramaturgs Amber Buttery, Amy Roberts, Jonah York and Rebecca Phythian for the thoughtful support and programme notes. But the overall effect of One Man Poe is to make one wonder if the show would not be more powerful if enjoyed at home with the lights off and the amplifiers on.

Fortunately for us, there is one livestream performance on offer, and perhaps there will be more. One Man Poe will be livestreamed on October 21st. Just the ticket for a horrifying evening at home with the family. Or, for the truly brave among you, alone.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Alya Sayer

 

 

One Man Poe

The Space until 23rd October as part of London Horror Festival 2021

 

More shows reviewed this month:
Dumbledore Is So Gay | ★★½ | Online | October 2021
Back To The Future | ★★★★ | Adelphi Theatre | October 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | October 2021
The Witchfinder’s Sister | ★★★ | Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | October 2021
Rice | ★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2021
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | October 2021
Love And Other Acts Of Violence | ★★★★ | Donmar Warehouse | October 2021
Yellowfin | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2021
Brief Encounter | ★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | October 2021

 

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Love and Other Acts of Violence

★★★★

Donmar Warehouse

Love and Other Acts of Violence

Donmar Warehouse

Reviewed – 15th October 2021

★★★★

 

“it’s essential to remind ourselves that theatre isn’t just about feel good musicals and revivals of the classics”

 

Cordelia Lynn’s new play, Love and Other Acts of Violence, is an unsettling look into how intimate relationships can be haunted by the past. In Lynn’s hands, it’s a clever premise. It’s multi-layered, complex—and yet, predictable in its unraveling. It looks back into the past and—just as unsettling—suggests a bleak future which, at this time of writing, doesn’t seem all that impossible. It is a timely reminder how quickly educated, civilized communities can be destroyed in a moment, if malign forces converge to set them against one another and tear them apart. Even more heartbreaking are the fates of the people caught in the middle. People just trying to live their own lives, to be true to their own cultural values, and not get drawn into fights that mean nothing to them.

It helps, then, to see the contemporary relationship between a Jewish physicist/Her and a poet of Polish descent/Him in this play as—broadly speaking—a series of echoes from the past that destroyed Her’s family in 1918 in what had just become Poland. We don’t learn the details of this past tragedy until the lengthy epilogue of the play, but Lynn sets about creating the inevitable revelations from the very first encounter between this ill-matched pair. He’s the idealistic firebrand at a party, invading her space as he rants passionately about poorly paid workers at the university where she is a graduate student. He notes with disdain the nice flat that he has snooped around during the party, and makes some unflattering comments about the likely owner. It turns out that it belongs to Her, the woman he is trying so hard to impress. Luckily for Him, and not so luckily for Her, she’s also kind, sensitive and intelligent, willing to forgive. This dynamic sets up the encounters that follow, becoming more intense, and violent, as the pair become lovers, then partners. The audience can only wonder why she doesn’t walk away. It’s painful to watch. And that is the point.

If we expect Lynn to stop there, however, Love and Other Acts of Violence has a couple more surprises for us. The first is a trip to a harrowingly imagined future, as the couple’s relationship deteriorates. At every point, the relationship echoes the slow, but insidious erosion of civil rights in the world around them, and hints of civil war. And then, in a magnificent moment, a coup de théâtre indeed, Basia Bińkowska’s bleak set converts from a bare space in the twenty-first century British Isles, to a meticulously detailed room in twentieth century L’viv (also Lwów, or Lemberg). In the epilogue, we see how events playing out during a struggle between Poles and Ukrainians for a small piece of contested territory sets the stage for the relationship we have just witnessed. Powerful, and tragic, stuff.

The newly refurbished Donmar Warehouse is a good place for a play like this. The austere brickwork and stark lines of the auditorium focus our attention squarely where it should be—on the stage, and the actors. Tom Mothersdale (as Him/Man) has the thankless task of playing the unsympathetic protagonist, and it’s to his credit that he goes for it so unstintingly. It’s easy to sympathize with Abigail Weinstock’s Her, but there’s not much for her to do except to react to His goading in the first part of Love and Other Acts of Violence. Baba (the role she takes on in the epilogue) is in some ways, a more interesting, nuanced role, and Weinstock makes the most of the opportunity. Richard Katz as Tatte is the charming, yet dolefully prescient father in the epilogue, who explains to his daughter why they have not taken the opportunity to escape to America. Director Elayce Ismail’s assured direction holds the play together, and sets the stage for each feature of this production to shine. I’ve mentioned the brilliant set design, but the sound (Richard Hammarton) and lighting (Joshua Pharo) are also noteworthy. And although there is no dramaturgy credit, the programme notes by Professor Michael Berkowitz are an absolutely essential part of understanding how this complex play fits together.

While a play like Love and Other Acts of Violence might not be everyone’s idea of how to spend a Friday night in the theatre, it’s important to remind ourselves that theatre isn’t just about feel good musicals and revivals of the classics. There are times when playwrights have to be the Cassandras of their generation, and fortunately for us, Cordelia Lynn knows how to rise to the challenge. I urge you to see this show.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Helen Murray

 


Love and Other Acts of Violence

Donmar Warehouse until 27th November

 

Previously reviewed this year by Dominica:
Public Domain | ★★★★ | Online | January 2021
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | ★★★ | Online | February 2021
Adventurous | ★★½ | Online | March 2021
Overflow | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
Stags | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | May 2021
The Sorrows of Satan | ★★★ | Online | May 2021
Doctor Who Time Fracture | ★★★★ | Unit HQ | June 2021
In My Own Footsteps | ★★★★★ | Book Review | June 2021
L’Egisto | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2021
Luck be a Lady | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | June 2021
Wild Card | ★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | June 2021
Starting Here, Starting Now | ★★★★★ | Waterloo East Theatre | July 2021
The Game Of Love And Chance | ★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021
The Ladybird Heard | ★★★★ | Palace Theatre | July 2021
Rune | ★★★ | Round Chapel | August 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | October 2021
The Witchfinder’s Sister | ★★★ | Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | October 2021
Rice | ★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2021

 

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