“the beast is visible hanging around her more persuasively than any prosthetics could”
There is a sign on the door of The Pit, a subterranean little dungeon in the Vaults, warning of, among other things, strobe effects and a lycanthrope. And there she is as we take our seats, lying in the corner of the stage, thankfully chained, and asleep. And in the human form of Arabella Gibbins.
In this one-woman show, the werewolf is interrogated over a period of weeks by her silent and unseen captor – a neat device to justify the monologue of her story. After an icy, intense opening, the werewolf’s story of how she came to be incarcerated becomes highly engaging, often funny, and incredibly relatable. Gibbins’ portrayal is wonderful, and the beast is visible hanging around her more persuasively than any prosthetics could – and yet somehow never loses that human touch.
Conceptually, the Big Bad is terrific, using the stalking horse of a werewolf story to provide a novel scope for themes of entrapment, power, and the experience of being a (were)woman. This is supported by excellent writing, peppered with eerily familiar references and double-meanings, to drive home a story that is both gripping and meaningful. The text is carefully crafted to feel whole, and complete. Nothing is forgotten – nothing is said without reason.
Assistant producer Esmee West-Agboola is not wrong when she says that The Pit at the Vaults is “bloody perfect for the world premiere of Big Bad” – with the addition of a bucket, a blanket, and a chain, the prison is brought to life. Special credit goes to the chain, which is an able co-star for Gibbins, as she bangs and clatters it with her changing moods.
Big Bad is as visceral as it is stripped back and as believable as it is extraordinary. This is top quality fringe theatre and must not be missed.
“perfectly strikes the balance between terror and comedy”
Hermetic Arts ‘Unburied’ was absolutely terrifying and brilliantly hilarious. It follows Carrie Marx (playing herself), as she tries to uncover the mystery of what really happened to the tapes from a cursed 70s kids TV show called ‘Unburied’. Carrie is in the midst of creating a podcast on the subject, after spending the past year researching it, and has allowed the audience to attend whilst she records it. Marx explains every element of her research and takes you on a journey, spanning centuries, as she details everything that she has found.
Marx is incredibly talented, her character is entirely real and likeable. She completely captivates the audience, armed with only a microphone and PowerPoint presentation. Her quest for information and to find out the truth is hilarious, and she perfectly manages the atmosphere of the theatre. One moment we are delivered a witty anecdote, the next we are being completely terrified by an audio recording from hundreds of years ago. The performance perfectly strikes the balance between terror and comedy, not taking itself too seriously but all the while slowly building up to a dramatic end.
The set was minimal: a desk at which Marx records her podcast, and a screen projected behind her that she uses to illustrate her story. The Waterloo East Theatre is small, and perfectly suited for this show. The rumbling of passing trains perfectly adding to the atmosphere as Marx reveals more information on everything she has learnt. The soundtrack was subtle but completely fitting with the theme of the performance, and the use of audio recordings made the story all the more realistic.
I never thought I would be completely enthralled by the retelling of a quest to find some missing tapes, but ‘Unburied’ certainly ticks all of the boxes; it’s funny, scary, deeply captivating and completely unpredictable.