Nosferatu's Shadow

The image of a twisted spindly shadow with long crooked fingers, along with pointy ears and even pointier fangs ascending the stairs, is one that is burned into the imaginations and nightmares of people across the world - all thanks to the work of the actor Max Schreck in the seminal silent horror classic Nosferatu. Despite this fact most people know next to nothing about the actor who brought to life this waking nightmare and his extraordinary life. Luckily Michael Daviot’s illuminating, funny and incredibly touching one man show is here to bring Schreck back from the dead to recount his incredible career in stage and film, finally stepping out of the shadow he’s lingered under for so long.

does an exemplary job of telling the story of Schreck’s life while still addressing broader themes of death, mortality, spirituality and what it means to be remembered

Using only minimal props, lighting shifts and sound cues, the show takes us through the whole life of Max Schreck, from his childhood spent in the forests of Germany to his time in acting school, eventually leading to the dark days he spent living under the Third Reich. Daviot is really the standout part of this show, proving utterly captivating and enchanting as Schreck, bringing a gentle kindness and soft sense of humour that makes him infinitely relatable. Indeed the intimacy of the venue often makes the performance feel like a one-on-one conversation with the great thespian, and on this occasion there were several teary eyes in the house as the lights went down. Daviot is completely committed to his role and every aspect of his performance, his voice, posture, facial expression and impeccable German accent make you really believe you are in conversation with the old school film and theatre star.

The performance is aided by a wonderful script, written by Daviot himself, that does an exemplary job of telling the story of Schreck’s life while still addressing broader themes of death, mortality, spirituality and - most importantly - what it means to be remembered.

The one criticism I do have is that the show punctuates the script with sections where Schreck freezes in the image of Count Orlocks shadow and hisses a line or two from the famous film. While the intention in these pauses is clear - to show the fame of the film impinging on the actors life - they come off as jarring and very unnatural in a way that doesn’t seem intended, standing out against Daviot’s usual ease and grace.

This one quibble aside, Nosferatu’s Shadow is an incredible one man show that I highly encourage anyone to spend their evening seeing. 

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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The Blurb

Who was Max Schreck, the man behind the monster? Why is he solely remembered for the only horror film he made during a career encompassing 800 parts and 50 films? How did he continue working through the rise of Hitler and the Nazis? What compromises did he have to make? He was a dreamer, a loner, a nature lover, a mystic, a hugely versatile and consistently lauded actor. He performed Shakespeare, Schiller, Moliere and Brecht. He was an expert in expressionism and naturalism. But, who was Max Schreck? To find out, we must liberate him from Nosferatu's Shadow.