As an experience, I highly recommend Phantasmagoria.
The adaptation does rather more than that. In a brief – 20 minute – immersive theatre experience, the production blurs the line between adaptation and dramatisation. A dramatic reading plus props becomes enhanced in the eyes of the teller, until teller and re-teller become one and the same.
Robert Oliver pulls off this contradictory character with an intensity I’ve rarely witnessed. He moves quickly and smoothly between pompous thespian, animated story-teller and Ancient-Mariner style possessed spirit. He grabbed my arms and stared into my eyes, and I could feel my heart beat hard and see the sweat on his forehead. He brought danger into the theatre.
There was also an inspired level of competing fictions. As Oliver’s character attempts to advance his story, he is contradicted by his maid and butler. All quoting deftly from the poetry, this contrast added a level of conflict to an essentially poetic experience. Milin Thomas earned my attention for his cold, measured delivery, which in opposing Oliver’s intensity, brought out the merits of each.
Even the set was precise and deftly handled. Every wall was covered in a makeshift material, alternating pieces of metal, wood and unidentifiable other. The room became a sort of 20th century Lear’s hovel on the heath, an impressive and immersive touch.
So as an experience, I highly recommend Phantasmagoria. However, this is the Fringe, full of penny-pinchers and struggling artists. To those, a £3.50 price tag for a 20 minute experience is a red flag. But the strength of that brief experience justifies my recommendation. Use the extra time to see more of what Edinburgh has to offer.