21st Century Poe: Moyamensing

One night in the life of Edgar Allen Poe, renowned American poet and global ancestor of the horror genre as we know it: we follow an original tale of Poe’s brief stay in Moyamensing prison, to “dry out” after Poe drunkenly mistakes a police officer for something much worse. The crux of this interesting concept is the blurring of this factual event with the twisted imaginings of the writer, depicted here as a guilt-ridden fantasist. Marty Ross has certainly gone some way to doing Poe’s style and genre justice in his creation of this piece, though the writing is noticeably better than the performance.

There is a determined correlation with the work of Poe, whether merely drawing on a sense of incoming doom or specific figures and stories.

The accomplished playwright, a successful radio drama author, is also our singular actor, and does little but run through miles of an indistinct gabble. Twinned with aimless, endless, melodramatic gesticulation, hardly choreographed, the effect of his performance is more akin to a fly you can’t swat away from your eyes or ears – or even a man condemned to the same fate. Tech, too, seems to have only two states: normal white light, scary red light.

Nonetheless, the story grips you the more you can ignore the actor delivering it. There is a determined correlation with the work of Poe, whether merely drawing on a sense of incoming doom or specific figures and stories. The narrative manages to map out a complex and thoughtfully connected psychological state, intertwining sinister or unexplained parts of Poe’s writing with the man’s true history and family.

A short story on paper may well have worked better than this dramatic offering. But if you can get past the practical issues, there is a crafted story here you might want to hear.

Reviews by Henry St Leger

Pleasance Dome

Police Cops in Space

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Frankie Vah by Luke Wright

★★★★★
Summerhall

A Hundred Different Words for Love

★★★★★
Bush Theatre

Guards at the Taj

★★★★★
Camden People's Theatre

Beta Public V

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

2013's sell-out show reinvented Edgar Allan Poe's stories. Now Poe tells his own tale, imprisoned for drunkenness in Moyamensing Prison and facing his worst nightmares. A true but little-known incident from the last few weeks of Poe's life provides a poignant, disturbing, darkly comic metaphor for all he loved, suffered and feared. 2013 show reviews: 'Insanely good storytelling... Trainspotting meets Gothic horror' ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). 'Ross has a great aptitude for suspense and terror... Chilling' (Scotsman). 'Visceral ... a compelling onstage presence ... theatre that kept you on edge ... a 21st century fairground ghost ride' (FringeReview.co.uk).