As you enter the white clinical looking surroundings of a backroom in the medical quad of the Underbelly you are greeted by a Stepford smiling woman who calmly leads you to your seats and explains the rules you will have to abide while you watch the show. This includes the ability to leave at any point by raising your hand and simply saying
Cut becomes one of the most memorable and chilling theatrical experiences you will likely ever have.
We are then plunged into complete darkness accompanied by the sound of what can only be described as cyclone in hell as you experience the most nerve racking and terrifying hour of horror of your life. In retrospect the need for a safe word to begin with should have sent alarm bells ringing that this wasn’t going to be a typical easy evening show at the festival.
Cut, a one woman show written and directed by Duncan Graham, styles itself as a surreal horror thriller in the style of artists like David Lynch. The plot revolves around an unnamed woman who is being pursued by a mysterious man wherever she goes. Like any good David Lynch movie however, the plot is not what is important, and as the play progresses the line between reality and nightmare grow ever thinner as we begin to question how reliable our narrator even is.
To say this show is scary is an insulting understatement; it is utterly terrifying on every level, from the first moment we are plunged into darkness the audience immediately feels like they have been lifted from the real world and placed inside a horrible waking nightmare. I must admit I found myself tensing within the first few moments and did not relax until about five minutes after I had left the venue still breathless from the experience.
This incredible atmosphere is achieved firstly through an incredible performance by Hannah Norris who plays the unnamed woman. Norris is a tour de force on stage, able to go from moments of complete emotional vulnerability to terrifying coldness in seconds and you are utterly captivated from start to finish. Secondly it is achieved through what is perhaps the best lighting and sound design I’ve seen in a fringe show in a long time.
Sam Hopkins, the lighting designer, and Russell Goldsmith, the sound designer, must be given as much praise as humanly possible for creating a technical design that is simultaneously both beautiful and monstrous as the play plunged us in and out of complete darkness with no warning, all the while assailing us with noises and sound that are unrecognisable but grate at your ears and make you squirm in your seat. These periods of blackout heighten the already high stakes as Norris seems transported across the stage, meaning every period of darkness is punctuated by the fear of what fresh horror we’ll see when the lights come back up again.
Cut is by far one of the best pieces of horror I’ve seen both at the Fringe and within my own life. It is by no means a show for everyone, particularly those of the faint of heart or who cannot deal with disturbing content of which there is plenty. If entered with the right mindset, however, Cut becomes one of the most memorable and chilling theatrical experiences you will likely ever have.