By the end of her one woman gothic horror show, Molly Beth White has gathered all of her spooky accoutrements and the previous 50 minutes’ themes into one rather triumphant macabre dance number - an excellent end to a well-worked and well-performed show. It’s rather a shame that so much of the early going feels slow and derivative.
The show is a story told in retrospect by Polly, assistant to travelling mountebank Edward B. Friday, a frequent opiate user and mockney-accent-haver. The tale touches on some of the key moments of her life with Ed, the murder of her friend and Ed’s eventual comeuppance. The aesthetic is paramount here, as all of White’s beautifully designed props, puppets and costumes feed into a general pot of fin de siècle decrepitude - all monochrome, broken and over-ornate. It might not be hugely original, but White uses these familiar motifs to her creative advantage and fans of Neil Gaiman’s more gothic work will feel right at home.
The standout moments in the show come when White takes a break from her narrative, which itself is sometimes frustratingly disjointed in accordance with Polly’s fragile emotional state, and stretches her creative legs. A scene in which she plays a doll coming murderously to life and a fantastic quasi-dance number depicting a moonlit chase and murder are both excellently executed; one feels that another such scene early on in the play would have set the action rolling more effectively.
All told, this was well worth the punt, although some work could be done on the play’s opening scenes. White is a winning and energetic performer and it’s difficult not to be drawn into the story at its more gruesome moments.