Edith in the Dark

Edith Nesbit, author of scary stories for children, jumps from the page to the stage in Edith in the Dark, a story fitting of her preferred genre. With strong performances, technical proficiency and solid writing, all that’s missing is a satisfying conclusion.

Exposition is handled smoothly and relatively quickly, and contains some real comedy in the early stages, before transitioning into real, heart-quickening horror.

Blue Merrick handles Nesbit with dignity and ease. She is strong, flirtatious, proud of her own abilities and yet unwilling to share them: she absolutely deserves the title role. Scott Ellis plays Mr. Guasto, a guest at Nesbit’s party. He is a strong actor, but too loud. I feel he must be trained for bigger stages; he projects well, but in a smaller venue his booming voice grated, and he is much better in the moments that required quiet. Rounding out the cast is the housekeeper, played by Rebecca Mahon, whose northern accent and drunken lilt is charming, if at times a tad heavy.

The set immediately impresses. The attic where Nesbit writes (and hides) is recreated with wooden beams, dying flowers and gas lamps. The lights are impressive too, with the adjustable wall lamps providing realism while above, blue lights shine down on the supernatural or hyper-real moments.

I liked 90 per cent of the script. Nesbit avoids social contact in her writing room, but Mr. Guasto appears. He is a fan, and requests a reading from her work. Nesbit agrees, but chooses to share her most terrifying story. Alongside the housekeeper, they reenact the stories with involved blocking and playing the several characters. Exposition is handled smoothly and relatively quickly, and contains some real comedy in the early stages, before transitioning into real, heart-quickening horror. That transition period is somewhat awkward; while it tries to do comedy and horror at the same time, it has little success in either.

But the greatest weakness in the script, and the play, is the conclusion. Ghost stories rarely have satisfying endings; it keeps the fear from resounding. But in a play, when the beginning and middle are developed and involved, it is desirable for the conclusion to have the same level of narrative structure. Instead, I got the ghost story ending. The real climax happens off stage, and there is no final confrontation. Edith in the Dark’s frame doesn’t quite match the strength of the stories it enables, though the production’s quality is high.

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The Blurb

Fringe First Award-winner Philip Meeks deliciously sinister new play looks at celebrated children's author Edith Nesbit's spine tingling ghost stories of love and bitter revenge and explores a unknown side of the much loved author.

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