With slick ensemble work and sinisterly twinkling live music, Les Enfants Terribles are back at the Fringe once more with Ernest and the Pale Moon, a chilling account of a man’s downward journey to insanity. Audiences step out of the daylight into the darkness of Pleasance One to observe Ernest’s guilt, triggered by the death of his lovely neighbour Gwendoline at his own hands.
It was stylised and sinister and there were some brilliantly imaginative parts.
Here, as in their previous Fringe production The Trench, Les Enfants Terribles practise ensemble theatre to the point of perfection. Each of the four cast members slips convincingly into different characters; the combined effect of their voices portrays Ernest at his more desperate moments. By a narrow margin, the most memorable of the four is Anthony Spargo as Ernest. Spargo conveys Ernest’s deterioration into madness powerfully; he’s wretched, convulsing and thoroughly believable. Laura Matthews is equally eerie in her role as Gwendoline, depicting the strangeness of her character’s wide-eyed fragility.
It was stylised and sinister and there were some brilliantly imaginative parts, such as scenes retold from a different viewpoint. We peer through Ernest’s skewed perspective as imagined versions of conversations between Gwendoline and her admirer, Thomas, goad and taunt him. All the while, his jealousy and anguish heightens.
The set is slickly manipulated, with gloomy lighting intensifying the more frightening parts. Rachel Dawson and David Ahmed, in addition to their acting roles, used the cello and accordion respectively to create a dismal and ghostly musical backdrop.
The rather sharp scene changes are perhaps designed to echo the unconventional style of the piece and unpredictable characters. However, these did feel a bit abrupt, particularly in the shorter scenes. The stylised nature of the production, coupled with the painted faces of the actors, felt a little overdone at times, but this seemed fit the show’s style and was redeemed by the other aspects of the production.
Ernest and the Pale Moon is visually unforgettable and worth seeing for this alone.