21st-century Poe

Marty Ross drags Edgar Allan Poe into a Glaswegian alley, knifes him in the back and shakes him down for drug money. What falls out is an insanely good piece of storytelling. With nothing but a tracksuit, a drum and a wickedly inventive mind, Ross creates a shocking tale for modern times. Three new versions of Poe’s stories are presented on rotation; I saw a retelling of the Tell-Tale Heart. If the other two are half as gripping, audiences will be in for a treat.

Ross is a master craftsman who never turns down the pressure, painting vile pictures and weaving a grotesque spell over his listeners. He is constantly on the move, thrashing around the aptly-chosen stage in the vaults. Five minutes into ‘Heart-Shaped Hole’ he is already sweating profusely as his character, sick from withdrawal and desperation, climbs thirty-five flights of stairs on a murderous mission. Ross turns one of Poe’s best-known tales into a hard-hitting narrative of drug dealers, paedophiles and Glaswegian tower blocks - whilst, incredibly, never losing the spirit of the original. It feels like genuine Poe resurrected in a violently modern setting. Gone are the Gothic mansions, but all the author’s creepiness and shock value remains.

Despite the many changes necessary to update the tale and extend it to fill the hour, Ross succeeds beyond all expectations in transplanting Poe’s sensibilities to the present. The tone is foul and relentless - Trainspotting meets Gothic horror - yet this, one feels against all better judgement, is exactly how Poe would have written it today. The storytelling is utterly convincing and you are guaranteed to be crushed in the grip of a passionate, unstoppable, spit-spraying narrator. Certain images were so repulsive that people in the front row were noticeably squirming. As we follow the tale’s descent into madness and bloody chaos, even the most outlandish of plot developments seems plausible. Ross’ violently impressive performance make this a heart-pounding triumph which demands appreciation.

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Performances

The Blurb

Scottish storyteller/playwright Ross (BBC radio horror, Doctor Who audio) performs his radical updates of Poe in three alternating full-length chillers: Falling for the Ushers; Heart-Shaped Hole; Ligeia - (Not) a Love Song. For individual dates see www.martyrossstoryteller.blogspot.co.uk.

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